Deutsche Bank overhaul ahead of plan, CEO tells investors

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Deutsche Bank’s multi-year overhaul is ahead of plan and remains its primary focus, Chief Executive Christian Sewing told shareholders on Thursday, promising an era of more sustainable profit.

The bank’s annual shareholder meeting, held online due to the coronavirus pandemic, took place in a more relaxed atmosphere than in recent years, a reflection of the lender’s return to profit and rising share price.

Three years into its restructuring, Sewing said Germany’s largest bank wasn’t over the finish line.

“But we have come a long way. We still have work to do, but we have already achieved so much,” he said.

Asked about possible mergers and acquisitions, Sewing said: “Our main focus is and remains the successful execution of our transformation by 2022”.

Deutsche posted a net profit for the first quarter, its strongest result for seven years, driven by its investment bank which outperformed major U.S. rivals.

Its shares are up more than 130% from last year’s record lows.

“There are no more question marks hanging over the stability of our bank, while many – but not all – of the problems of recent years have been remedied,” said Chairman Paul Achleitner.

Alexandra Annecke, a fund manager with Union Investment, said Deutsche had become an exciting turnaround story and this year’s meeting for once wasn’t taking place in a crisis.

“Shareholders have the worse behind us,” she said. “We finally see light at the end of the tunnel.”

Deutsche’s restructuring includes exiting business lines such as equities trading and shedding 18,000 staff.

Ratings agencies have become more optimistic about the bank. Moody’s recently put Deutsche under review for a possible upgrade.

Despite a spate of good news, however, the bank is still having problems with money laundering controls.

Germany’s financial regulator last month ordered Deutsche to enact further safeguards to prevent money laundering.

“We must improve our transaction monitoring,” Achleitner said.

(Reporting by Tom Sims and Patricia Uhlig. Editing by Kirsti Knolle and Mark Potter)