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How Deutsche Bank Drifted Into Its Whirlpool of Woes

The Deutsche Bank headquarters in Frankfurt.

The Deutsche Bank headquarters in Frankfurt.

Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg
Updated on

At this point, Deutsche Bank AG’s biggest problem may be how many problems it has, how long they’ve gone on and how they’ve fueled one another. Years of low profits at Germany’s biggest bank have spawned a long series of failed turnaround plans and a steady departure of senior executives. Chief Executive Officer Christian Sewing has unveiled a last-ditch effort to salvage what’s left by racing to dramatically shrink and reshape its operations around the globe.

The bank has long been caught in a downward spiral of declining revenue, sticky expenses, lowered credit ratings and rising funding costs. It’s repeatedly tried to reverse the slide, without success. Problems include outdated technology, a talent drain and heavy fines -- $18 billion in the decade since the financial crisis -- for misconduct. Adverse market conditions including negative interest rates have compounded the homemade difficulties. The bank’s shares lost more than half their value in 2018, and in 2019 they remained down about 90% from their 2007 peak.