Josef Ackermann is smiling. Never mind the humiliating collapse of the proposed merger of Deutsche Bank and rival Dresdner Bank in April, caused partly by his insistence that Dresdner sell its investment banking unit. Ackermann, Deutsche Bank's chief of investment banking, survived the debacle.
Deutsche Bank has long suffered ridicule for its costly effort to compete with the likes of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and Goldman, Sachs & Co. But Ackermann, 52, insists the effort is finally bearing fruit. In Europe, Deutsche Bank shot from eighth in 1999 to second so far this year in IPO issuance, behind Goldman Sachs, according to Capital Data Inc. Investment banking was a key driver in Deutsche Bank's first-quarter profit of $864 million, a 50% increase from a year earlier. "We're profit-oriented," Ackermann says. Eventually, he wants Deutsche Bank to be among the world's top three advisers on mergers and acquisitions. Deutsche Bank is 14th so far this year.
Ackermann has tirelessly tried to infuse Deutsche Bank with more drive and entrepreneurial spirit. He joined the bank in 1996 from Credit Suisse Group, where he was CEO, after a falling out with the chairman over a restructuring plan. Although he's eyeing the top job at Deutsche, Ackermann brushes off reports of rivalry with CEO Rolf-E. Breuer. "We get along well," he says. And he smiles.