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Foresight or desperation? The two sides of Deutsche Bank’s equities exit

Deutsche Bank’s decision to exit equities but continue with ECM is a startling move, but it reflects the reality of the industry as much as it does the bank’s own uncomfortable position.


Deutsche Bank's headquarters in Frankfurt

Who said this, and when?

“One of the issues we’ll have to think about is how big our sales force should be. The industry is changing, and I’m not convinced we need a sales force as big as our  major competitors. People will start to focus on how expensive it is to have a fully fledged distribution system.”

Was it Christian Sewing, the Deutsche Bank chief executive who in July 2019 unveiled a radical reshaping of the bank that ditched its global equities business?

If you thought that, then you have the right firm, but the wrong person.

It was in fact Edson Mitchell, former head of global markets at what was Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, speaking to Euromoney in 1996. He had been hired from Merrill Lynch in 1995 to head Deutsche’s global markets division and could already foresee the challenges that would face his industry in the years to come.

His death in a plane crash in 2000 saw the industry lose one of its more perceptive participants, but the future he predicted – one where banks find themselves forced to cut bloated sales operations in the face of increasing costs and automation, either exiting businesses or striking up joint ventures with firms that have networks but little origination clout – has come true.

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