Mr. Knof, a year and a half ago you moved from the outside to the top of Commerzbank’s Board of Management. What is your interim balance?
I took over the management of Commerzbank in the middle of the corona pandemic. It’s only recently that I can say that I’ve been to all the important locations at least once. Only the overseas trips are still pending. In a comprehensive transformation like the one we set in motion with our “Strategy 2024”, it is important to see as many people as possible in person, to pick them up and to swear them in for the new direction. I am glad that this is now possible again. Overall, however, we as Commerzbank got through this period well. We even succeeded in negotiating and then implementing the necessary downsizing without much background noise – even faster than originally expected. This shows that the social partnership works in Germany even in such unusual times and that such a difficult issue can be solved together.
In May 2021, they agreed that around 10,000 full-time jobs would be cut by 2024 and that socially acceptable solutions such as partial retirement would be found. Is that all over now?
We assume that by the end of the year we will have reached agreements with the vast majority of the employees affected. As of mid-June, we have already found almost 7,000 individual contractual solutions. This does not mean that the employees concerned will leave the bank immediately, but that they will leave the bank at specified times.
Could it be that this major downsizing is still not enough?
The world around us is constantly changing. But as of today, I still assume that the scale is appropriate for what we have planned with Strategy 2024. We are setting a completely new focus, restructuring our business model, driving digitization forward and consistently aligning Commerzbank with sustainability. We are making good progress with this. Commerzbank delivers what it promised. This is necessary in order to restore credibility – in-house and not least on the capital market, whose expectations we have even exceeded in some cases. We feel the tailwind.
We hear from the bank that staff reductions are often taking place too quickly, and that some branches and the central IT department are barely able to work.
With a conversion like ours, it can hardly be avoided that it squeaks in one place or another. Synchronizing branch closures and the expansion of digital sales channels in such a way that there are as few capacity bottlenecks as possible is certainly a challenge. We want to have the issue resolved by the end of the year, by which time our advice centers will be up and running.
You are already closing almost every second branch. What is your main criterion?