Deutsche Bank CEO: Europe could 'lose relevance' unless it acts fast

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK

The chief executive of Deutsche Bank (DBK.DE) has called for sweeping reforms to help make Europe more competitive, warning the region could be left behind unless policymakers act soon.

“We simply aren’t that interesting anymore for many investors in companies,” Christian Sewing said in a speech on Thursday.

“If we don’t want to lose our relevance, we have to act fast, but also decisively.”

Sewing said that technology would be key to future economic growth and called for changes to local laws and practices to ensure Europe doesn’t miss out on the tech boom.

“The long-term challenge is that the global balance of power is clearly shifting,” he said. “The race between the US and China is in full swing, about trade but especially over technology.

“Europe risks losing further ground if we do not seize the opportunity offered by digitisation.”

Christian Sewing, CEO of German bank Deutsche Bank. Photo: Daniel Roland/AFP/Getty Images

Sewing set out five priorities for reform that he believed would help make Europe more competitive. These are: deeper integration of the single market; cutting corporate taxes to attract business; making it easier to grant stock options to staff to stop European talent migrating to Silicon Valley; government investment in technology infrastructure; and a friendlier attitude towards tech companies from policymakers and regulators.

“We need to take a look inwards at our own attitude towards the technological disruption that is already reshaping the global economy,” Sewing said.

“Europe should not focus primarily on regulating new technology, Europe should drive innovation itself.”

The comments appear targeted at the European Commission, which has in recent years taken a series of punitive actions against tech giants. Competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager has hit the likes of Apple, Amazon, Google, and Qualcomm with billions of euros in fines and back taxes since taking the role in 2014.

Sewing said focusing on innovation, rather than regulation, was “crucial because the competition for technological supremacy will determine the future division of global economic power and thus also determines Europe’s position in the world going forward.”

Deutsche Bank announced a sweeping restructure in July that included 18,000 job cuts globally and the end of its equity trading business.

Sewing said the bank was also investing in technology alongside the cuts to drive growth.

“We need to deeply innovate to stay relevant,” he said, “in payments, in customer apps, in deploying artificial intelligence, in building or facilitating European alternatives to American and Chinese platforms, and more.”

Sewing’s comments came at the SIBOS banking conference in London on Thursday.

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Oscar Williams-Grut covers banking, fintech, and finance for Yahoo Finance UK. Follow him on Twitter at @OscarWGrut.

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