Blessing steps off the Commerzbank rollercoaster
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Blessing steps off the Commerzbank rollercoaster

From the debris of multiple crises, Martin Blessing has overseen a quiet return to stability and moderate success at Commerzbank, just as the entire European banking sector hit the skids once more. In his last major interview before stepping down as CEO, Blessing looks back on his tumultuous eight-year tenure.



Martin Blessing steps down as chairman of the managing board of Commerzbank on Wednesday. He is the last remaining chief executive of a large European bank that was bailed out during the financial crisis to have remained in office through the painful recovery that followed.

Still only 52, Blessing has served as CEO of Germany’s second biggest private bank for eight tumultuous years, since May 2008. That is longer than any other large European bank CEO, aside from Frédéric Oudéa, who was named as chief executive of Société Générale in the same month Blessing took the top job at Commerzbank.

Oudeá has hardly had a quiet career, but Blessing’s has been a rollercoaster ride, as early triumphs quickly turned to disaster, initial revival gave way to further calamities and then a long, slow recovery ground forward. How does he feel, Euromoney wonders, as he prepares to leave behind the regular criticism from the German press for his annual salary of €1.3 million ($1.46 million) – he dared to take a bonus as well last year of €2.67 million, his first since 2007 – and periodic summons to Berlin for a carpeting from politicians?

Martin Blessing’s final interview: key points

• Why Blessing decided not to renew his term, and is stepping down earlier than initially announced

• The rationale for the Dresdner Bank takeover is still valid

• How the eurozone crisis derailed Commerzbank’s recovery

• Blessing’s battle to manage down the bank’s problem exposures

• On the challenges facing his successor Martin Zielke

• Why resuming dividend payments is an important signal to investors

• On the difficulties of balancing the demands of regulators and investors

“I may be one of the few bank CEOs who has come through the crisis and still likes banking,” Blessing tells Euromoney.

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