Deutsche’s decline may cause a German rethink
Could Deutsche Bank’s relegation from the top table of investment banks puncture Germany’s positive impression of its banking system, leading to a breakthrough in Europe's banking union?
At the beginning of the year, German politicians seemed keen on maintaining a national champion in investment banking, and this appeared to be a crucial factor propelling merger talks between Deutsche and Commerzbank.
Those talks then fell apart, and both banks now have to look elsewhere for inspiration.
Deutsche has decided to retreat from equity sales and trading and is moving staff and technology to BNP Paribas for some parts of its equities operations. It is cutting 18,000 jobs.
Doubts have emerged over the execution of the plan, partly about whether clients in unaffected businesses jump ship anyway, leading to more slippage than planned down the league tables. This would depress profits, in turn scaring Deutsche’s credit backers and raising its cost of funding, which would depress profits more.
As for Commerzbank, it had already offloaded its equity markets and commodities business to a French peer, in this case Société Générale. Since the Deutsche talks fell through, rumours have swirled about a non-German bank merging with it.
Germany can no longer claim to be able to offer a full-scale investment bank on its own.
In this, a glimmer of hope shines through for proponents of the eurozone's gridlocked banking union, which it is hoped will propel M&A in the bloc if it ever gets off the ground.
In truth, that outcome is far from certain in light of political fragmentation across the EU. But if Germany recognises that its companies need other countries’ banks, and also fears that Deutsche could unravel messily before a European-wide deposit insurance scheme is in place, maybe its politicians will stop procrastinating when it comes to the banking union.