Deutsche Bank's finance chief told staff representatives last month that job cuts at the bank could be double that planned, a step that could remove 10,000 further employees, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Although no such decision has yet been taken, Marcus Schenck's remarks, at an internal meeting, signal the lender is considering further significant cost cuts, as it faces a multi-billion-euro fine and a crisis of confidence among investors.
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"Schenck said that the bank would need to cut another 10,000 staff to bring down costs," said a person who attended the meeting with the chief financial officer, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter. Deutsche Bank declined to comment.
Such cuts, if agreed, would likely take many years but setting such a goal could reassure investors that the bank is determined to tackle costs that sources said the European Central Bank sees as bloated.
If 10,000 job losses were ultimately to follow the 9,000 announced by management in October 2015, roughly one in five of the bank's workforce around the globe would be affected.
Deutsche has been engulfed in crisis since news emerged last month of a U.S. Department of Justice demand for a $14 billion settlement over the sale of toxic mortgage bonds before the global financial crisis. It is fighting the fine but could have to turn to investors for more money if it is imposed in full.
The discussion about further job cuts comes as Deutsche's chief executive, John Cryan, reassesses a year-old strategy to revive the flagging group, as ebbing market confidence sends its stock price tumbling and prompts some customers to withdraw funds.
A second person familiar with these discussions said the management was also examining the countries where the bank was active to see "whether it was really worth its while (staying in those countries)".
Profit down, headcount up
Cryan too hinted at steeper cuts at the end of August, when he told a conference that Deutsche's staff should be between 25 and 30 percent lower, pointing to lean rivals.
Commerzbank, a far smaller German rival, recently announced it would axe more than a fifth of its workforce - almost 10,000 staff.
But given potential high severance costs and revenue losses, it remains unclear whether a further attempt by Deutsche to trim staff can be achieved.
Headcount has actually risen at the bank, despite the plans announced by Cryan in October 2015 to slash staff. Employee numbers, which stood at more than 101,300 in the middle of this year, are higher than the roughly 98,600 one year earlier.
One hurdle in removing staff is that many are based in Germany, where strict labour law makes it difficult and expensive to fire employees. Of the 9,000 job cuts announced in October 2015, 4,000 are in Germany.
In Germany, unlike Britain, for instance, labour representatives have an important say and appoint non-executive directors to Deutsche's supervisory board. They will argue for fewer cuts.
An additional downside to shrinking the workforce is that it could sap revenue. Regardless of this, however, the heavy fine demanded by the U.S. authorities could prompt Cryan to act.
Once Germany's only bank to go head-to-head with U.S. rivals on Wall Street, stricter regulation, rock-bottom borrowing costs and still heavy costs has squeezed Deutsche's profits.
Politicians in Germany, who are preparing for national elections in 2017, are watching developments nervously.
They are worried that the state could ultimately be called on to support the lender, widely disliked among ordinary Germans for its aggressive pursuit of success on Wall Street.