Deutsche Bank’s clients take steps to cut exposure

The funds have taken steps to withdraw securities or cash from the bank, dial back their trading activities or both, the people said. They include AQR Capital Management, Capula Investment Management, Citadel, Luxor Capital Group, Magnetar Capital and Millennium Management.

Shares in the bank dropped as much as 8% in early trading in Frankfurt on Friday in response to the news.

The amount of assets recently withdrawn or earmarked for potential withdrawal is in the billions of dollars, one of the people said. That is a small piece of the hundreds of billions in balances analysts say Deutsche Bank has in its so-called prime brokerage business alone—and a tiny fraction of its more than $ 600 billion in customer deposits overall.

Still, the retreat by clients is a sign of nervousness about Deutsche Bank’s ability to weather its challenges, some of which are specific to the bank and others wrought by economic conditions plaguing European banks as a group.

The client moves, which have mounted in recent days, don’t mean the hedge funds have stopped doing business with Deutsche Bank, but that they have taken steps to transfer some of their accounts, financing arrangements and trading to other banks as questions about Deutsche Bank’s capital position have intensified, the people said.

Bloomberg News reported earlier Thursday that some Deutsche Bank clients have moved derivatives holdings to other firms this week, citing an internal bank document. That report sent the US-traded shares of Deutsche Bank tumbling more than 6%.

“Our trading clients are amongst the world’s most sophisticated investors,” Deutsche Bank said in a statement. “We are confident that the vast majority of them have a full understanding of our stable financial position, the current macroeconomic environment, the litigation process in the US and the progress we are making with our strategy.”

Beyond hedge funds, executives and salespeople also have tried to ease the concerns of investment bank and wealth management clients, people involved in discussions with the bank said.

John Cryan, the lender’s chief executive, was in New York this week, and met with clients amid a swirl of negative news about the bank.

Besides emphasising Deutsche Bank’s creditworthiness and liquidity, executives and client relationship managers this week told wealth management clients, for example, that the bank’s operations aren’t affected by fluctuations in its stock price, the people said.

Several hedge fund managers said their hands were being forced by their own investors’ drilling them about whether some of their holdings could get caught up at Deutsche Bank should the firm run into deep trouble.

Many said they were reminded of the 2008 financial crisis, when big hedge funds pulled accounts from prime brokers at firms like Bear Stearns, helping precipitate their decline. “That is at the back of everyone’s minds,” said one hedge fund manager whose firm has dialed back its exposure to Deutsche Bank recently.

Deutsche Bank has repeatedly said those concerns aren’t justified. Banking analysts say that liquidity—the availability of ample, easy-to-sell securities and other funding to satisfy client obligations—isn’t a pressing problem: Deutsche Bank has more than €220 billion (about $ 246.8 billion) of liquidity reserves.

It also has a formidable backstop in the European Central Bank, which provides huge quantities of liquidity on permissive terms. Through an emergency program orchestrated by the ECB, national central banks in the eurozone can lend yet more—the Bank of Greece provided around €90 billion of emergency liquidity to Greek banks in crisis last year.

But the lack of a convincingly profitable strategy and waning shareholder confidence in the bank are big problems, analysts and investors say. Poor financial results and costly potential fines eat into the bank’s capital cushion, which is already thinner than many of its peers. Fears that the bank might be forced to raise capital, hurting existing shareholders by diluting their stakes, have weighed on shares. The decline in share price, in turn, makes it more difficult to raise fresh capital.

Deutsche Bank’s situation has been complicated by thorny politics at home. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other government officials have faced relentless questions about their appetite for bailing out Deutsche Bank, should it need a rescue.

Merkel has for years taken a hard-line stance criticising taxpayer bailouts of European banks, pressing southern European countries to impose losses on bondholders before taxpayer financed rescues come into play. Postcrisis European rules, many written at Germany’s instigation, make it hard for countries to sail to the rescue of a hometown bank.

Cryan this week said the bank has neither asked for nor needs a government bailout. A spokesman for Merkel said there was “no need for such speculation” about state aid for Deutsche Bank, responding to a German magazine report that Merkel had ruled out providing the bank with government assistance.

Deutsche Bank has been under pressure all year, the epicentre of continentwide worries about European banks’ performance and resilience in the face of a weak economy, low interest rates and flagging business.

The concerns picked up two weeks ago when The Wall Street Journal reported that the US Justice Department floated the idea of Deutsche Bank paying $ 14 billion to settle a series of high-profile mortgage securities cases. The bank responded by saying it had no intention to pay “anywhere near” that amount, and said its negotiations with the Justice Department were just starting.

The disclosure sparked fears that Deutsche Bank might have to mount a painful capital hike. Bank executives have repeated to investors, clients and employees—and publicly—that the lender has adequate capital and has no plans to sell shares.

Write to Rob Copeland at and Jenny Strasburg at

This article was first published by The Wall Street Journal

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