Deutsche Bank is undergoing a major restructuring--one that means closing down entire divisions and laying off thousands and thousands of employees.

That's never good news, of course. And the bank's CEO, Christian Sewing, posted (and reportedly sent) a 1,900-word email message explaining it Sunday for everyone involved with the bank.

It's a tough thing to write. It's also--sorry to say--a weird and painful thing to read.

In fairness, is there really a non-painful way to write about laying 18,000 employees--and making it sound like good news? Probably not.

His single message was clearly designed for so many constituencies: employees who are losing their jobs, employees who sticking around, and employees who don't know where they stand--to say nothing of investors and clients.

Some quick background.

Deutsche Bank is a giant bank with roots going back nearly 150 years. To say it's had a tumultuous and controversial history would be an understatement.

A more recent scandal: Deutsche Bank's alleged role in a $20 billion Russian money laundering scheme. (Still more allegations, here.)

Its restructuring now comes at the end of what Geir Moulson of the AP aptly summarized as, "a long, failed attempt to compete with the global investment banking giants that left it overextended."

That's what Sewing, 49, was facing when he was picked as CEO last year.

It's what he had to explain--or at least try to explain--in this message to employees.

The whole thing runs 1,900 words, which is way too long--if only because it actually repeats many of the same points and phrases over and over again.

For example, Sewing wants everyone to understand just how "fundamental" a change the bank is making.

  • So, he writes: This is "nothing less than a fundamental transformation of our bank."
  • Then, again: The announcement means "nothing less than a fundamental rebuilding of Deutsche Bank..."
  • Then, again: "That means we will be fundamentally rebuilding our bank..."
  • And again: "The rebuilding will, however, only be successful if we fundamentally reshape our infrastructure..."

And he really seems to want people to know how badly he feels about the fact that so many people are going to lose their jobs as a result of the plan over the next few years.

  • So, he writes: "I personally greatly regret the impact this will have on some of you..."
  • And then: "I can assure you that my colleagues and I appreciate that this impacts people and affects their lives in a profound way..."
  • And again: "Taking this decision has not been easy...."

Sewing doesn't actually announce the cuts in his emails. He refers to the press release.

Or, frankly, he could have referred simply to any one of dozens of news stories Monday documenting the carnage at DB's offices in London, Tokyo, and New York. 

Anyway, you can read the whole message on Deutsche Bank's website. Along with their media release explaining the details.

But it's an odd way to explain the news. So much so that I wondered whether this might have originally been written in German, and then translated into English.

As the late Molly Ivins once said of a speech by Pat Buchanan, maybe it's "better in the original German."

So, I asked Deutsche Bank about that point, but they didn't answer--and just referred me to the website.

All of which makes me almost regret even getting into this.

Sorry, I mean: "personally, greatly" regret it.

Does that make it better?

Published on: Jul 9, 2019
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