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Commerzbank: How Zielke and Schmittmann’s positions became untenable

Everyone wanted radical change at Commerzbank, except the bank itself.


Commerzbank’s chairman Stefan Schmittmann and chief executive Martin Zielke

The joint resignations of Commerzbank’s chief executive Martin Zielke and chairman Stefan Schmittmann may have come as a shock for many investors.

However, the news will probably be well-received, as it is clear that the bank needs a much deeper restructuring than the one it was attempting before.

Zielke’s attempts to convince investors of his ability to boost the bank’s profitability have become less convincing as the restructuring at close peer Deutsche Bank has gained credibility.

Deutsche, indeed, has been one of Europe’s best-performing bank stocks during the past year, and especially over the past few months, while Commerz has been one of the worst.

Souring relations with US private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management have precipitated Zielke and Schmittmann’s departures. Cerberus took a 5% stake in Commerz in 2017, the same year it took a 3% stake in Deutsche Bank.

Commerzbank’s shares have since lost two thirds of their value, while Deutsche shares have lost about half their value.

Board representation

In June, according to reports, Cerberus demanded more board representation at Commerz, which the bank then rejected – sparking threats by the US firm, which turned out to be real, that it would push for leadership change.

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