Banking

Deutsche strategy chief to head Asia-Pacific

Changes at Deutsche Bank in Asia-Pacific confirm that the German investment bank intends to increase its focus on the region.

Alexander von zur Mühlen is to take charge of Deutsche Bank’s Asia-Pacific business when Werner Steinmüller retires at the end of July. It is a move that confims that this is where the Frankfurt-headquartered bank sees its future growth.

Asia-Pacific currently makes up 13% of the bank’s revenue and 22% of its staff.

“In his nearly 30 years of service at Deutsche Bank, Werner Steinmüller has been instrumental in developing significant areas of the group. Both the transaction bank, which he managed for several years, and most recently the APAC business are crucial to Deutsche Bank’s future,” said supervisory board chairman Paul Achleitner in a statement.

Steinmüller is going to be a tough act to follow. A Deutsche Bank lifer (he joined from Citibank in 1990) Steinmüller was named head of Asia-Pacific in August 2016. 

The bank has benefitted both from having a German voice in the region and on the management board. Since his appointment in Asia, Steinmüller has acted as a bridge for the bank between Asia and Europe.

He is regarded as having been instrumental in the €278.3 million ($305.2 million) D-Share listing of Shanghai-listed appliance manufacturer Qingdao Haier in Frankfurt in October 2018 for which Deutsche Bank was sole global coordinator. He was also crucial in helping to bring China’s first euro-denominated sovereign bond issue in 15 years; a €4 billion three-tranche bond in November last year for which Deutsche acted as joint lead manager and bookrunner.

Steinmüller will continue to serve the bank in an advisory role until the end of the year.

The appointment of von zur Mühlen can be seen as a confirmation that Deutsche Bank intends not just to continue, but also to build on Steinmüller’s strategy.

“In Alexander von zur Mühlen we have found an excellent in-house successor to Werner Steinmüller. As a recognised strategist and internationally experienced capital markets expert, he possesses all the skills and attributes needed to develop our Asia-Pacific business and further advance our regional strategy,” said Achleitner.

Von zur Mühlen joined Deutsche Bank in 1998. Another Deutsche Bank lifer, he made his name in investment banking both as co-head of debt capital markets in Europe and then co-head of global capital markets.

Significantly he was named global head of group strategy in the summer of 2018. He was the visionary behind the – ultimately doomed – plan to create Europe’s second-largest bank by merging with Commerzbank at the start of 2019, and has been central to the $8.1 billion ongoing reorganisation of the bank.

Working closely with and gaining the trust of current chief executive Christian Sewing, von zur Mühlen was able to avoid the cull of the lieutenants of ill-fated former chief executive John Cryan after he was dismissed by the board in April 2018 following three years of losses.

It is too early to say whether his appointment will see an increasing shift towards investment banking in the region, but regional bankers presume that von zur Mühlen’s interest and experience in the debt markets will certainly give it a boost.

At the moment, the bank is standing in 13th place in the Asia G3 currency bond league tables ex-Japan and Australasia, and ninth in the international Australia dollar bond league tables, according to Refinitiv data.

Deutsche Bank has not announced where von zur Mühlen’s will be based when he takes up his appointment in August. Over the years, the chief executive for Asia-Pacific has sat in either Singapore or Hong Kong. Steinmüller has been based in Hong Kong.

GOING GREEN

Further sign of how much emphasis the bank is placing on Asia-Pacific came last week when it appointed Kamran Khan to the newly created role of head of environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) for Asia-Pacific. This makes Deutsche Bank the first bank to have a dedicated ESG representative in the region.

Khan will be based in Singapore, reporting regionally to Steinmüller and locally to David Lynne, Singapore chief country officer, head of corporate bank APAC, and head of fixed income and currencies APAC.

“We have created this role as a statement of our intention to place ESG at the heart of our organisation and the service we provide to clients in this region. ESG is a key strategic priority for us globally and regionally, and one that spans the full spectrum of our businesses,” said Steinmüller.

Having someone on the ground, makes a great deal of sense. Last year saw a record volume of $240 billion green bond issuance – 3% of total global bonds issued – according to asset manager Amundi and IFC. Emerging market green bond issuance increased by 21% to $52 billion, bringing the overall market size to $168 billion led by China, with East Asia and the Pacific region responsible for 81% of the market.

Deutsche Bank has also said that by the end of 2025, it intends to increase its volume of ESG financing plus its portfolio of sustainable investments under management to more than €200 billion in total.

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