© Reuters. Annual results press conference of Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt
FRANKFURT (Reuters) – German lender Commerzbank (DE 🙂 has poached an executive from its larger rival Deutsche Bank (DE 🙂 to take on the role of chief executive and to fill a leadership vacuum after months of turmoil.
Manfred Knof, head of Deutsche Bank's retail business in Germany, will take the top spot with Germany's second lender on January 1st.
He succeeds Martin Zielke, who resigned this summer after a revolt by private equity investor Cerberus, one of the lender's largest shareholders, who was pushing for big changes at the bank.
The appointment allows Commerzbank to advance a new strategic plan that has been put on hold until a new leader has been found. The bank is examining the closure of branches and the reduction of international employees in order to save costs.
Hans-Jörg Vetter, chairman of the Commerzbank supervisory board since last month, has informed the employees that the lender is not a "case of restructuring, but that Commerzbank needs to become more efficient".
"It has to increase its revenues, reduce costs and question the status quo," Vetter told the employees after a protocol from Reuters.
When choosing Knof, Vetter overlooked two current Commerzbank board members who were in the running.
Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank were in merger talks last year, but they canceled them. Since then, Deutsche Bank has embarked on a major restructuring that aims to cut almost 18,000 jobs, while Commerzbank has largely shaped the time.
The initial reaction from a top investor was cautiously optimistic. The focus is now on implementing change, and success will depend very much on the relationship between Vetter and Knof, said the person with knowledge of the investor's position.
Knof will assume office subject to approval by its regulator, the European Central Bank.
Knof is an "experienced and highly effective top manager who has proven himself in a variety of roles in the financial services industry," said Vetter.
Deutsche Bank's deputy chairman of the board, Karl von Rohr, will take over responsibility from Knof, Deutsche Bank said.
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