Strategies in the spotlight for trio of new European bank CEOs
LONDON – Thousands of jobs cuts, business closures and billions of euros of capital raising are all on the cards as the new bosses of three of Europe’s biggest banks respond to pressure to devise new strategies to revive them.
Credit Suisse (CSGN.VX) Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam, Deutsche Bank’s (DBKGn.DE) John Cryan and Standard Chartered’s (STAN.L) Bill Winters are putting the final touches to their plans, which Thiam and Cryan will unveil next month and Winters is expected to deliver in early December.
All have been in charge roughly 100 days – a period when new chief executives typically formulate strategy after meeting investors, regulators, politicians, customers and staff.
Big job cuts loom in a bid to cut costs and improve profitability – their main target.
Cryan is to cut 23,000 staff, or about a quarter of headcount, mostly from disposals, financial sources told Reuters earlier this month.
Winters could axe several thousand, sources said, although they said no final decisions had been made and much will depend on disposals. Meanwhile Thiam has said he plans to use his engineering background to take a hard-nosed look at efficiency.
Senior management ranks are also being shaken up – Winters has named a new management team and is cutting layers of bureaucracy to simplify and speed up decision-making while Thiam immediately brought in a long-time confidant as his chief of staff and moved a couple more staff.
Santander’s chairwoman Ana Botin (SAN.MC) said this week changes she had made in her first 12 months had “laid the foundations for the bank we want for the next 10 years”, and said 21 of her top 31 management team are new or have new roles.
Thiam, Cryan and Winters, all in their early 50s, each needs to undo mistakes made by predecessors and shrink their banks to reduce complexity and get out of business areas that no longer make money. Other banks, including CEO-less Barclays (BARC.L) and Italy’s UniCredit (CRDI.MI), are also going through the process, but new CEOs are under pressure to come in with a fresh view to take bold action.
“All are high caliber, but they need to hurry up and make decisions about their business and markets while they are still learning a lot about them,” one senior banker said.
All three CEOs declined requests for interviews. But here is their thinking on key issues, according to public comments and interviews with sources at banks, investors and analysts:
FIRST 100 DAYS…
The three CEOs have all gathered with their boards and senior bankers this month – opting for hotel retreats in Bavaria, Switzerland and Singapore – to discuss plans.
They have made some big changes in their first two to three months and given broad signals on where their priorities lie in messages to staff and at second-quarter results.
Winters halved his bank’s dividend after a slump in second-quarter profits laid bare the scale of the challenge he faces.
Cryan said he planned to stick with “Strategy 2020”, which includes reducing the size of the investment bank and selling its Postbank retail bank and cutting other parts of the retail chain. He also said there were plenty of businesses that could still be changed “quite significantly”.
And all three are expected to cut their investment bank operations, especially fixed income trading.
THE PERSONAL TOUCH
Thiam has impressed with a confident start, analysts said. The multi-linguist has said he would be “ruthlessly selective” about what the bank does, driven by adding shareholder value.
Thiam, a former Ivory Coast government minister who previously ran UK insurer Prudential (PRU.L) for six years, wants a capital-light bank and is expected to put more focus on Asia.
“This is a CEO with a track record, a very successful track record at Prudential. He’s seen as a remarkable asset allocator, particularly in terms of distributing capital towards regions where he sees growth, and reducing capital headed for areas in which he doesn’t see the same growth,” said Guy de Blonay, a manager of the Jupiter Global Financial Opportunities Fund. He owns shares in Credit Suisse and was previously an investor in Deutsche Bank and Standard Chartered.
Winters, a dual U.S. and British citizen who ran JPMorgan’s (JPM.N) investment bank and was a member of a UK government commission that recommended how banks should be made safer, said Standard Chartered was “a special bank” but has its problems.
It had been too focused on growth and not on returns for investors. Its risk assessment had been poor and it had been “too slow to take hard decisions, whether on costs, people, or strategy,” he told analysts.
Cryan, a former UBS (UBSG.VX) finance director, also said complexity and costs were stifling his bank.
“This is the first time ever that you had the feeling that somebody is talking straight,” said one person familiar with the bank. “But the problem is he has to deliver soon.”
At his first supervisory board meeting as CEO in July in New York he kept quiet and took a lot of notes, but at this month’s meeting in Bavaria he talked a lot and listed all the problems and weak points for the bank – but without giving his solutions, according to people at the meetings.
Meanwhile all three banks could do with more capital, analysts say. Each has a capital solvency ratio above its regulatory requirements, but are relatively weak compared with rivals.
They could opt for a major rights issue, a less disruptive smaller fundraising of several billion dollars or try to build equity capital by retaining earnings and cutting assets – less painful but potentially holding back on any growth plans.
However, depressed share prices at Deutsche Bank and Standard Chartered make a highly dilutive rights issue unlikely, analysts and investors said. Deutsche Bank already raised 8.5 billion euros last year, while Winters might prefer a quick-fire share sale to raise $3 billion, they said.
Thiam is more likely to raise cash swiftly, bankers reckon, and he told staff on his first day the bank needed a strong balance sheet to help it through rough times.
Credit Suisse’s common equity capital ratio of 10.3 percent of risk-adjusted assets is well below that of arch-rival UBS and investors said raising $6 billion or more should be supported if it is accompanied by a positive growth story when he steps up on Oct. 21. -Reuters