Amidst a festival-like atmosphere, with social activists banging drums outside and Occupy protesters interrupting the speech inside, Deutsche Bank AG (NYSE:DB) (ETR:DBK) (FRA:DBK) co-CEO Jürgen Fitschen vowed to remain a top European investment bank at their annual investor meeting.
Speaking in an auditorium that hosted a Miley Cyrus concert just one week ago, Fitschen faced a hostile audience consisting of both social protesters and investors as he outlined a changing European banking market.
Since the financial crisis, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway has had significant exposure to financial stocks in its portfolio. Q1 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more At the end of March this year, Bank of America accounted for nearly 15% of the conglomerate's vast equity portfolio. Until very recently, Wells Fargo was also a prominent Read More
With many large bank competitors such as UBS AG (NYSE:UBS) and Barclays PLC (ADR) (NYSE:BCS) (LON:BARC) being driven away from lucrative yet risky trading operations that landed the large banks in hot water with regulators for market manipulation – including landing some individual European bankers in jail – Fitschen nonetheless saw the silver lining. “We see good opportunities to win market share in highly profitable business areas, especially now when some of our competitors are pulling back from investment banking,” Fitschen was quoted as saying in a New York Times article.
Bank is a “big legal department with a banking subsidiary”
Others in the audience weren’t so optimistic. “Deutsche Bank AG (NYSE:DB) (ETR:DBK) (FRA:DBK) has become a big legal department with a banking subsidiary,” Klaus Nieding, a representative of the Deutsche Schutzvereinigung für Wertpapierbesitz, a shareholder group, was quoted as saying in the report.
In 2013 the bank spent nearly €350 million on legal costs to manage over 6,000 lawsuits and regulatory investigations, according to Stefan Krause, the bank’s chief financial officer. When asked if there were “any scandals Deutsche Bank AG (NYSE:DB) (ETR:DBK) (FRA:DBK) is not involved,” Krause pointed to a new system to help manage the bank’s reputation along with profitability to balance the two. This promise comes as the bank’s co-CEO Anshu Jain had been promising for two years previous that the bank would focus on the interests of society and its clients, a fact mentioned in the Times report.
Deutsche Bank’s financial numbers a concern
Talk of a large bank having a social conscious is enough to make hardened investors wary as they note the impact on the bottom line. There were plenty of questions regarding the bank’s relative poor financial performance as well. The stock has dropped 24% since January and has significantly underperformed the dominant global banking rival JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM), a fact that was keenly noted at the event.
“The truth is that you have lost tremendous ground in investment banking,” complained Nieding, as the more serious financial talk centered on the bank’s capital requirements. As ValueWalk had previously reported, Deutsche Bank AG (NYSE:DB) (ETR:DBK) (FRA:DBK)’s plans for raising additional capital were called into question by Societe Generale in a report titled “Limping Along.” In the report the bank’s management target were called “far too ambitious” as the report predicted earnings nearly 30% below consensus for 2014 and 2015.
As the social protesters lined up both inside and outside to make their points, it could be the weakening financial position of the bank that matters most and will need to be addressed in order for the bank’s management to host the investor buffet next year, known as the “wurst dividend,” where a mostly elderly investors feasted on a banquet of free food at the end of the meeting.