Still in the game
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Still in the game

Deutsche Bank buys Bankers Trust and pitches itself into yet another battle of cultures. Swallowing Morgan Grenfell has left bitter memories, but this time the German bank should be better equipped to control the Anglo-Saxons and the risks of the entire group. Bank strategies are changing in Germany, driven by intensifying competition, greater transparency and more advanced risk management. David Shirreff reports.

On January 1 Deutsche Bank gains a new board member. Apart from the fact that he's colourful, aggressive, and a good mathematician, with swap trading and risk management experience, he's not much different from the patrician Deutsche bankers he'll be joining.

But the board of Deutsche Bank have high hopes that hiring Thomas Fischer as their new chief financial officer will prove a vital step in their quest to build a global investment-cum-commercial bank. His presence is even more essential now that Deutsche has bought Bankers Trust, another piece of the jigsaw.

Everyone agrees Fischer is tough, political and smart - the Michael Douglas of the financial markets. But he's also an accomplished risk manager and in the past three years has proved himself capable of running - and considerably improving - one of Germany's biggest savings banks, Landesgirokasse Stuttgart.

Growth in banking today, wrote Fischer in his annual chairman's statement this year, "is hardly possible without taking greater risks. Therefore the ability to diversify and master risks must be perfected - more rapidly than ever before in financial history". Someone who can master that in Frankfurt, at board level, is exactly what Deutsche Bank desperately needs.

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