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Commerzbank - Kohlhaussen's big gamble

Commerzbank has defied history and set up a profitable global equities operation from scratch. Or has it? We can't measure the success of this adventure. Nor does the bank's management want us to know. It's staking everything on Wunderkind Mehmet Dalman whose empire, to his own amusement, is expanding by the minute. Laura Covill reports


Is he mad, bad or just recklessly confident? Few investment bankers would be as candid as Mehmet Dalman.

"It worries me that things are going so well," says Dalman, Commerzbank's head of equities, who last month also took over fixed income. "We couldn't have planned that."

"So it's a fluke?"

"Well, yes."

Dalman makes it clear he has little time for his commercial banking bosses. His real hero is John Meriwether, fallen angel of Salomon Brothers and Long-Term Capital Management.

Mehmet Dalman

When Commerzbank bank announced the launch of its equities house in 1997, the market yawned. Yet another continental European bank was discovering too late that it ought to venture into European equities. Like others before it, Commerzbank took a domestic equities operation, renamed it "global" and invested heavily in creating an international operation: today Europe, tomorrow the world. The linchpin was Mehmet Dalman, hired from arch-rival Deutsche Bank where he had headed Japanese equities.

Ennui turned to amusement as Dalman used enormous persuasive powers plus a generous portion of good looks and charm to attract experienced professionals jaded by the culture of huge investment banks and keen to make a fresh start at what he terms a "start-up operation".

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