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How Deutsche Bank survived the crisis

JOSEF ACKERMANN, the head of Deutsche Bank, combines a silky manner with blunt words. When the German government set up a bail-out fund to stabilise the country’s banking system, he said he would be “ashamed” to use it. When Europe and the IMF bailed out Greece, Mr Ackermann said he doubted it would pay back the loans. And when regulators and economists say that big banks should be broken up, with “casino” investment banks split off from “utility” retail banks, Mr Ackermann retorts that “smaller banks will not make us safer.”

Mr Ackermann speaks with the authority of a man who steered his bank through the crisis more deftly than most. Deutsche did not escape unscathed. In 2008, a year in which it had confidently forecast a record profit of more than €8 billion ($11.7 billion), it posted a net loss of almost €4 billion because of a huge hit to its investment bank (see chart). Yet it emerged from the crisis as the leading member of an exclusive club of large banks—others include Barclays and Credit Suisse—that did not have to take direct injections of public funds (although all, of course, benefited from a wide range of other government props to the system).

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