While other banks are pushing the pause button on pre-Covid job cuts and digital transformation projects, Deutsche Bank is pressing ahead with plans laid down in 2019...and seizing the opportunity to make further costs savings from home working and video-conferencing.
Far from being thrown into paralysis by the scale of the health crisis, the giant German bank sees the opportunity to reduce costs further, by encouraging more home working and video conferencing in the post-Covid recovery period.
"The current crisis situation has provided us with new ideas for potential cost-savings," Christian Sewing told shareholders at the bank's virtual AGM. "If 60 percent of employees worldwide can work away from their offices and still deliver excellent service to our clients, then of course we have to ask ourselves: can we give our staff additional flexibility to work from home if they want to? And if that’s the case, do we need quite so many offices in expensive urban centres?
"If, in many cases, video conferencing is almost as good as visiting a client - do our staff still have to travel - and especially to fly - so much? Of course there’s often no substitute for face-to-face meetings with clients, regulators and colleagues, and we want to be close to our clients. But we have decided that we are going to significantly reduce the time we spend travelling. This will cut costs - and benefit the environment."
The bank in 2019 announced that it would be shedding 18,000 jobs, equivalent to one fifth of its global workforce, and investing €13bn on new technology over the next four years.
"Unfortunately...we will have to implement job reductions as planned," Sewing told the meeting. "Since March 26, in the light of the coronavirus crisis, we have refrained from contacting individual employees whose jobs are to become redundant. But it’s precisely because the transformation is essential for the future of our bank and we bear responsibility for a sustainable business model that we will, unfortunately, have to resume these personal discussions."
The Bank also intends to stick to its EUR13 billion technology spending programme, with a particular focus on using the cloud as an accelerator for innovation and by deploying more artificial intelligence and machine learning technology.
"Technology is more important than ever - a fact that the coronavirus crisis is serving to highlight very well," he says. "Digital business models are the big winners and this trend won’t suddenly reverse once the pandemic subsides. One thing is true for virtually every industry including, of course, for us, the banks: digitalisation is the new currency. It is the basis on which success and failure will depend."