Hans-Jörg Vetter: Commerzbank Supervisory Board has new boss

[“Against the will of the major shareholder Cerberus, Commerzbank’s Supervisory Board elected Hans-Jörg Vetter to head it. He now has to look for a new Group CEO. “]
[“The Supervisory Board of Commerzbank has elected the former Chairman of the Board of Managing Directors of Landesbank Baden-Württemberg (LBBW), Hans-Jörg Vetter, as its new Chairman. Before the 67-year-old can take up the post, he must still be formally appointed as a new member of the Supervisory Board by the competent court. This is expected within the next few days, Commerzbank announced. Major shareholder Cerberus could not prevent Vetter’s election. “]

At the beginning of July, both the Chairman of the Supervisory Board Stefan Schmittmann and Group CEO Martin Zielke announced their resignation following criticism from investors. Financial investor and Commerzbank\’s major shareholder Cerberus had accused the top management of having “failed blatantly for years”.

[“The double resignation of Schmittmann and Zielke had hit Commerzbank in the middle of the debate on a new strategy. According to reports, plans to significantly intensify job cuts and branch closures are being discussed. According to these plans, the number of full-time jobs, which has recently reached almost 40,000, could be cut by up to a quarter and the branch network could be reduced considerably. In addition, low interest rates and the bank’s corona crisis are making business more difficult. When it presents figures for the second quarter on Wednesday, analysts expect only a small profit on balance. For the full year and 2021, the experts expect a loss. “]

Vetter was considered a favourite for the chairmanship of the supervisory board. The 67-year-old was head of LBBW from 2009 to 2016 and has already been interviewed once for the chairmanship of the Supervisory Board of Commerzbank. In 2016, however, Schmittmann was elected, who resigned on Monday. Vetter has gained a lot of restructuring experience at LBBW, which had been in need during the financial crisis from 2007 onwards. He also restructured the former Bankgesellschaft Berlin, which had speculated on real estate investments.

The most important task for Vetter will be the search for a successor for CEO Zielke. The new boss must then implement a new strategy for the restructuring of the bank. The bank will prematurely terminate the contract with Zielke by 31 December 2020 at the latest. The manager had admitted that the measures decided in autumn were not sufficient to make Commerzbank more profitable despite low interest rates.

The election of Vetter as the new Chairman of the Supervisory Board took place against the will of financial investor Cerberus, who is not represented on the supervisory body and was unable to vote. Cerberus had previously proposed two candidates of his own. In a letter to the Supervisory Board, Cerberus had written that Commerzbank\’s difficult situation required a Chairman of the Supervisory Board who could “help initiate and convincingly accompany the necessary far-reaching restructuring”. “We have serious doubts that Hans-Jörg Vetter is the right person for this task and has the right experience in this field.

[“A good relationship with the financial investor is important for the bank’s future course: with a stake of a good five percent, Cerberus is Commerzbank’s second-largest shareholder after the German government, which rescued the bank during the financial crisis and holds 15.6 percent. “]

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