The scene was solemn at Deutsche Bank’s offices in London, New York and Tokyo on Monday as scores of employees, belongings in hand, left their desks for the final time as the German lending giant began one of the largest rounds of layoffs since the financial crisis.
Carrying boxes and envelopes containing personal effects and A4 forms, Deutsche workers started their work week by collecting their belongings and emptying their desks.
Monday’s exodus represented the first wave of several rounds of layoffs at Germany’s largest lender, which announced on Sunday that it will pull out of global equities sales and cut 18,000 jobs.
Deutsche, which once sought to compete with Wall Street’s top investment banks and trading desks, said that the vast restructuring is aimed at improving the firm’s profitability and reduced adjusted costs by 25% to 17 billion euros over the next several years.
The bank’s international ambitions played a central part in its strategy for decades. Its $10 billion acquisition of Bankers Trust in the late 1990s, for example, helped it compete with other American investment banks like Goldman Sachs. But Deutsche’s recent struggles — though heavy — are hardly unique as political uncertainty and anemic interest rates cripple European banks against their U.S. peers.
Some euro zone banks, including Deutsche, have tried to mitigate the damage by shoring up unprofitable businesses and regions. And while the bank did not include a geographic breakdown of the current job cuts, London and New York are hubs for its investment bank’s trading operations and could feel the greatest impact.
For those on Wall Street who witnessed the casualties of the financial crisis more than a decade ago, the Deutsche layoffs seemed eerily familiar. In one of the largest single rounds of layoffs in history, Citigroup said in 2008 that it would eliminate 14% of its global workforce with 50,000 cuts.
In recent years, Deutsche has been pummeled by scandals, investigations and massive fines resulting from crisis-era infractions. It reached a $7.2 billion settlement with the U.S. Justice Department in January 2017 for allegedly misleading investors in the sale of mortgage-backed securities in the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis.