By Tom Sims
FRANKFURT (Reuters) -Deutsche Bank employee representatives on Tuesday harshly criticized the bank’s plans to slash its Postbank branch network, saying the move sends the wrong signal and comes at the wrong time.
Deutsche, Germany’s largest lender, this week announced its intention to cut the number of its Postbank branches from around 550 to 300 by mid-2026 as it adapts to changing demand, and the labour criticism means management may not easily push through changes with thousands of jobs on the line.
“We are very critical,” Jan Duscheck, who oversees the banking industry at the Verdi trade union and who sits on Deutsche’s supervisory board, told Reuters.
“This discussion about the branch closures comes at the wrong time… The reputation of the Postbank brand is severely damaged… and now the bank is starting a new construction project.”
Deutsche began acquiring Postbank, with its millions of clients and roots in the postal system, in 2008 during the global financial crisis, but for years struggled to completely merge their operations.
A botched integration effort earlier this year left customers complaining that they were locked out of their accounts and unable to reach call centres.
The issue has drawn the scorn of the nation’s top regulator and a promise by Deutsche’s chief executive to devote additional resources. It has been a setback for Deutsche’s effort to restore credibility after fines and penalties over the last decade.
Susanne Bleidt, head of the employee works council for Postbank branches, told Reuters that staff had been under intense strain, putting up with resentment and anger from customers.
“They would have expected to be rewarded for that, and now this news comes, which is a very, very big disappointment and a big shock for our employees,” she said.
Claudio de Sanctis, the new Deutsche Bank board member overseeing the lender’s retail operations, in a staff memo on Monday laid out his vision for Postbank becoming a “mobile-first” bank.
“We must self-reflect,” he wrote in the memo, seen by Reuters, referring to recent technical gaffes and changes “in how our clients want to engage”.
Deutsche Bank said that talks with employee representatives would take place soon to determine final details on the cuts.
Duscheck faulted the plans for failing to detail specifics on investments and said it remained an open question whether the branch reduction would be technically feasible by 2026.
(Reporting by Tom Sims, Editing by Rachel More and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)