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Bernhard Walter, Chief executive-elect, Dresdner Bank

"Why Walter?" asked even senior staff at Dresdner Bank when Bernhard Walter was designated as the bank's next chief executive. From outside German banking came a simpler query: "Who is Walter?" So far, Walter has made no attempt to shed light on either mystery.

Long before he succeeds Jurgen Sarrazin next May, Walter is already tainted as a compromise candidate. Ask any senior German banker, inside or outside Dresdner, and you'll hear a different explanation for the surprise election of Walter by Dresdner's supervisory board. No one saw him as the obvious choice: Heinz-Jörg Platzek, Ernst-Moritz Lipp, Gerhard Eberstadt, Horst Müller and Gerd Häusler were all believed to have a stronger claim.

Yet more than any of these erstwhile rivals, Walter can be seen as a successful combination of commercial banker and investment banker. As head of corporate and international banking he has built up Dresdner's east European business, the area where the German bank co-operates most effectively with its French partner Banque Nationale de Paris. As head of global finance, he has a seat on the management board of Dresdner Kleinwort Benson. This dual identity could enable him to reconcile the two parts of the Dresdner group before they diverge any further.

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