Deutsche Bank Abandons Wall Street Ambitions, and Focuses on Europe

But he said that the bank would aim to become less dependent on revenue from investment banking, which is often erratic, and instead look for growth in markets closer to home like Italy and Spain.

Mr. Sewing spoke after Deutsche Bank said Thursday morning that net profit had fallen nearly 80 percent in the first quarter of 2018 to 120 million euros, or $146 million, on revenue of €7 billion.

The meager return “underscores the need for immediate action,” said Mr. Sewing, a risk management specialist who replaced John Cryan as chief executive at the beginning of April. “Our shareholder returns are not satisfactory.”

Deutsche Bank Abandons Wall Street Ambitions, and Focuses on Europe
Deutsche Bank Abandons Wall Street Ambitions, and Focuses on Europe

The plan will also include job cuts, but Deutsche Bank did not give specifics.

Deutsche Bank became a major presence on Wall Street in 1998 when it acquired Bankers Trust. But the deal was troubled from the start. The $10.1 billion purchase price was widely viewed as inflated, and the risk-happy traders of Bankers Trust clashed with Deutsche Bank’s conservative German leadership.

The hidden risks of Deutsche Bank’s investment banking operations became clear after the onset of the financial crisis in 2008. The bank had a hand in virtually all of the major scandals of the era. It paid billions of dollars in fines and settlements related to fraudulent sale of mortgage bank securities, and over its role in a conspiracy to rig the benchmarks used to set the interest rates on trillions of dollars in loans and other financial products.

Still, Deutsche Bank was more reluctant than its European rivals to reduce its Wall Street presence. Others like Credit Suisse moved more quickly, and have since been rewarded with better profits.

Deutsche Bank’s position in investment banking has become increasingly untenable. The bank’s share price has fallen 30 percent since December, and it has not reported an annual profit since 2014. The stock market values the bank at less than half of the nominal value of its assets, an indication that investors believe there are hidden risks.

Traders seemed Thursday to be waiting to see if Deutsche Bank’s latest strategic plan by would be more successful than others. The bank’s stock price was little changed at €12 per share.

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Deutsche Bank has also been under intense pressure from regulators. The European Central Bank, which has ultimate authority for bank regulation in the eurozone, has asked the lender to calculate the cost of winding down its derivative holdings.

Though the analysis is hypothetical, it underscores regulators’ concern about risks that may be lurking in Deutsche Bank’s balance sheet.

Mr. Cryan, who served less than three years as chief executive, had already started trimming the investment bank. But he was criticized as not moving fast enough. Mr. Sewing’s plan appears to go much further by explicitly shifting the focus from the United States to Europe.

“We will change the path of our bank now,” Mr. Sewing said. “There is no time to waste.”

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