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Bonuses don’t make bankers work harder, says Deutsche’s John Cryan

Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan
Thomas Lohnes | Getty Images
Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan

For most leaders, admitting they do not understand something is a no-no. But not Deutsche Bank's new co-chief executive John Cryan — at least when it comes to the bonus culture and his own pay packet.

"I have no idea why I was offered a contract with a bonus in it because I promise you I will not work any harder or any less hard in any year, in any day because someone is going to pay me more or less," he told a conference in Frankfurt.

Pay in the sector was still too high, he added, and he did not "fully empathize" with people who "say they turn up to work and work harder because they can be paid a little bit more".

"I've never been able to understand the way additional excess riches drive people to behave differently."

He made the comments as Deutsche and some of its big European rivals face pressure to prove to shareholders they are using their money wisely and that their restructuring programmes will produce improved returns.

Mr Cryan's view, unsurprisingly, is not popular with his peers. "He's entitled to his views," said one senior London-based banker. "[But] it's market economics . . . It's totally driven by supply and demand."

One recruiter said that, despite Mr Cryan's rhetoric, Deutsche had recently hired a string of people in New York who were paid "very competitively".

"There's an element of playing to the gallery here," the recruiter said, noting that regulators in Europe had made it clear that they wanted banks to pay people less. "The job of CEO is as much political as it is managerial."

Pay in investment banks has fallen by a fifth since 2010, according to research by PwC, as banks have been hit by a combination of tougher regulation and sluggish markets in the wake of the financial crisis.

But apart from the level of salaries, Mr Cryan said, it was necessary also to rethink the structure of employees' earnings in order to take into account the longer-term impact of their behaviour on the bank. Pay arrangements, he said, left banks in the "ridiculous position where the baby's been given the candy and you've got the difficulty of taking it away".

In the context of a far from vintage year for Deutsche, which paid a €2.5bn fine over its role in the Libor affair in April and is sitting on a €4.6bn loss after taking big writedowns in October, Mr Cryan's comments have particular resonance.

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The 54-year-old Briton warned last month that the losses and the fact that Deutsche intended to pay no dividend this year or next, would "have to be factored in some way" into bonus decisions this year.

However, he stressed his "personal commitment" to trying to achieve a fair balance between staff and shareholder interests.