Commerzbank: This time they hope it’s different
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BANKING

Commerzbank: This time they hope it’s different

Any bank promoting its new strategy as ‘version 4.0’ has clearly suffered a chequered recent history. Now Commerzbank’s management is pinning its hopes on a renewed focus on corporate clients, especially in Germany. It sounds simple, but insiders admit it will require a cultural, as well as digital, transformation.

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Illustration: Kevin February

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. When John Cryan revealed his latest plans for Deutsche Bank on March 5, his equivalent at rival Commerzbank, Martin Zielke, might have been forgiven for doing a double-take. 

Aside from the headline-grabbing capital raise, Deutsche plans to keep its Postbank unit in order to focus on domestic retail banking; combine its global markets, corporate finance and transaction banking businesses into a single unit to better focus on corporate clients and to intensify the disposal and run-off of legacy assets. This is all very familiar to Zielke, as it is almost a carbon copy of the restructuring he announced for Commerzbank six months earlier. 

Zielke’s Commerzbank 4.0 strategy was clear: to make more money by focusing on what the German lender is best at: financing the German economy. The first step towards achieving that was to boil the business down to two customer segments: private and small business customers (PSBC); and corporate and institutional clients. 

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The latter merged the former mittelstand bank and corporates and markets businesses into one unit. As part of this process, more than 30,000 of the bank’s 100,000  corporate clients were moved into the PSBC segment. 

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