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Western Europe: LBBW – Why Rainer Neske feels at home in Stuttgart

LBBW’s new chief executive has put together an ambitious and far-reaching strategy for the state-owned German bank that will surprise many. Can his focus on corporates, international expansion, capital markets and fintech work when private-sector banks are failing?

Illustration: The Red Dress

There were plenty of raised eyebrows in Germany in February 2016, when Landesbank Baden-Württemberg (LBBW) announced the appointment of Rainer Neske as its new chief executive. 

Neske took up his position at the start of November 2016, replacing Hans-Jörg Vetter, the veteran firefighter who had led the painful but successful restructuring of LBBW after its catastrophic loss of almost €2.1 billion in 2008.

The German media’s surprise at Neske’s appointment was chiefly a product of his 26-year pedigree in the private sector. A computer scientist who joined Deutsche Bank after graduating from Karlsruhe University in 1990, Neske had been in charge of retail banking at Deutsche since 2009. Having reportedly fallen out with former co-chief executives Anshu Jain and Jürgen Fitschen over Deutsche’s proposed sale of Postbank (which the current chief executive of Deutsche, John Cryan, has called off), Neske was widely tipped as a potential successor for Martin Blessing as chief executive of Commerzbank. 

If Neske was indeed on the shortlist at Commerzbank (Commerz promoted insider Martin Zielke to the role), then Frankfurt’s loss is Stuttgart’s gain. He is likeable, articulate, easy-going and energetic. 

He is also refreshingly frank about the challenges that LBBW faces.