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‘It’s a restart’: Why Deutsche Bank is slashing over 18,000 jobs

Germany's biggest lender Deutsche Bank said Sunday it would cut 18,000 jobs by 2022, as the former leading light of the country's financial sector looks to escape years of turmoil.

'It's a restart': Why Deutsche Bank is slashing over 18,000 jobs
Shareholders at Deutsche Bank's annual meeting at its Frankfurt headquarters in May. Photo: DPA

The slashing of around one in five of its workforce, to 74,000 employees, is an unprecedented round of departures for Deutsche.

The bank said the layoffs would reduce annual costs by €6 billion euros over the same period.

“Today we have announced the most fundamental transformation of Deutsche Bank in decades,” chief executive Christian Sewing said, dubbing the scheme “a restart for Deutsche Bank”.

The lender did not immediately make clear where the axe would fall.

But with executives looking to find synergies in the integration of subsidiary Postbank and central infrastructure roles, many jobs are likely to go in home country Germany.

The new round of job cuts comes on top of some 6,000 already carried out over the past year.

Bosses expect the restructuring plan to sap second-quarter results by some three billion euros this year, making for a net loss of 2.8 billion.

Over the whole year, Deutsche is likely to plunge back into the red after a brief flirtation with profitability in 2018.

The bank does not plan to pay out dividends this year or next.

Last chance?

The restructuring could be a last chance for Deutsche after much-hyped merger talks with crosstown rival Commerzbank fell through earlier this year.

Negotiations collapsed despite the backing of the finance ministry in Berlin, which feared seeing a vital link in the financing of the country's economy bought up from abroad.

SEE ALSO: '10,000 jobs in grave danger': Unions warn of Deutsche-Commerzbank merger

Over the past four years, the firm's market capitalization has fallen by 75 percent, making it a potential target for takeovers by bigger fish.

As markets closed Friday, Deutsche was worth €15 billion, placing it firmly at the back of the pack in a European industry dominated by the likes of HSBC (€165 billion euros), Spain's Banco Santander (€69 billion) and France's BNP Paribas (€54 billion).

“Deutsche plays in the first division, and should lay the foundations for things to stay that way” over the weekend, urged economy minister Peter Altmaier in the tabloid-style Bild's Sunday edition.

Since he took the helm in early 2018, Sewing has attempted to refocus the sprawling group on stable revenue-generating business areas, including retail banking and so-called transaction banking for businesses.

Meanwhile Deutsche's focus has shifted from its attempt to compete with US-based global giants back to its home turf of Germany and Europe.

Investment banking burned

In particular, tough cuts to the former flagship investment banking unit have been on the agenda since May.

Sunday's announcements target the once-proud division.

Deutsche will stop almost all share trading activity, and is in talks with France's BNP Paribas to sell off some of its business and staff in the field.

On Friday, Garth Ritchie, the head of Deutsche's South African investment banking unit, was first out of the door.

The unit's business had fallen back by 20 percent in the first quarter of 2018 alone, and it was no longer bringing in the fat profits of former years.

Especially in the US, it was for years plagued by lawsuits and scandals, including some linked to the so-called “Panama Papers” leak of sensitive documents about offshore dealings.

SEE ALSO: German police raid Deutsche Bank in 'Panama Papers' graft probe

On top of the rank-and-file cuts, Deutsche is also rebuilding its board, sending away compliance chief Sylvie Matherat and two other executives.

The group will also create a so-called “bad bank” unit to host some €74 billion of low-quality assets, notably those linked to derivatives transactions — highly speculative financial products.

Deutsche's woes are a microcosm of a struggling German banking sector that was once widely envied.

Last year, more than 32,000 jobs were cut in the industry, or 5.4 percent of the total workforce of 565,000, according to Barkow Consulting figures.

Bosses complain that low interest rates in the eurozone, sluggish economic growth and competition from new online platforms are sapping their performance.

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WORKING IN GERMANY

7 tips for how to survive as a freelancer in Germany

Taking the decision to go it alone and freelance in Germany can be a daunting prospect. But, if you do it right, it can be an exciting and liberating path. Here are some of our top tips on how to survive.

7 tips for how to survive as a freelancer in Germany

1. Get a tax advisor

The German tax system is complicated, even for Germans. All the associated paperwork uses the Amtsprache (authority language) which is more like legalese than ‘normal’ German, and mistakes when filling out tax forms can cause you, at best, a massive headache and, at worst, a costly fine. So it’s best that you employ someone who knows what they’re doing to help you out.

That person is called a Steuerberater (tax advisor) in Germany. They will help you register with the tax office, correspond with them and submit your tax declarations.

Be aware that, in Germany, different deadlines apply for tax returns depending on whether you employ an official tax advisor or not. If you are doing the tax return on your own, the deadline for submitting your annual tax return is earlier than if you use a tax advisor’s services. 

READ ALSO: What NOT to do when you’re freelancing in Germany

When looking for a tax advisor, a top tip is to use your network to get recommendations. Ideally, you want someone who will do more than just fill in the forms for you, but who will actually advise you on how best to manage your business finances so that you can make tax savings.

2. Keep your accounting in order

The better you keep your own accounts in order, the easier it will be for your tax advisor to compile your tax declarations and therefore the cheaper their services will be.

As a freelancer, there are a lot of costs you can deduct from your taxes – from train tickets, working materials, to meals out – so it’s best to keep hold of all your receipts and to keep them in good order.

2 euros and 50 cents lie on a receipt in a beer garden. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

In Germany, you’re obliged to keep hold of receipts for two years, in case of a tax inspection, so it’s a good idea to photocopy the type of machine-printed receipts you get from restaurants so that they stay legible for a long time.

There are also a few things to be aware of when writing your own invoices. Firstly, make sure that you include your tax number. This isn’t the 11-digit Steueridentifikationsnummer that everyone gets when registering in Germany, but the 10-digit Steuernummer you get from the Finanzamt after registering yourself as a freelancer. 

Most companies won’t pay you if you don’t have this on your invoices so make sure you include it.

You should also make sure that you number your invoices properly – ideally in ascending order so that you can easily keep track of them. You are not allowed to issue two invoices with the same number and if you do so and the finance office notices, you could face an inspection of your whole accounting system.

There are numerous great accounting software programmes you can use to help you, such as Lexoffice and Sevdesk and, even if you have to pay for them, the costs will be tax deductible!

3. Find out if you’re eligible for financial support

In Germany, there are several opportunities for freelancers to gain financial support and to cut their outgoings, and its worth finding out if you’re eligible for them.

If you’re claiming unemployment benefits under ALG 1 and are thinking about becoming a freelancer, the employment office offers a special type of financial support to help you to get your freelance business off the ground.

Called the Grundungszuschuss (“foundation grant”) the payment is a six-month grant equalling your monthly entitlement under ALG 1 plus €300 towards your insurance costs can be applied for those in receipt of this unemployment benefit.

READ ALSO: Will freelancers benefit from Germany’s €300 energy allowance?

If you are engaged in some form of artistic profession in Germany – which can include journalism to pottery – you may be entitled to membership to the Kunstlersozialkasse (artists’ social insurance).

Being a member of the KSK means you only have to pay half of your health insurance and pension contributions, and the KSK will pay the rest.

4. Work out how much you think you will earn

As with starting any business, you need to have some idea of your expected earnings from the outset.

If you’re just starting out as a freelancer, or have some freelance gigs on the side of an employment position, then it might be worth considering registering yourself as a Kleinunternehmer (“small business”).

As a Kleinunternehmer, you can currently earn up to €22.000 per year without having to charge VAT and having to submit only yearly tax declarations. 

An income tax declaration form lies on a table. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Hans-Jürgen Wiedl

Be aware that if you are registered as this kind of freelancer, you must include the following sentence in your invoices: ‘Gemäß § 19 UStG wird keine Umsatzsteuer berechnet’ which means ‘In accordance with Paragrah19 of the German VAT law, no VAT has been added to this invoice.’

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about your German tax return in 2022

If you think you will earn more than €22.000 per year, you will need to pay Umsatzsteuer (VAT) and will have to submit tax declarations in advance and more often. Depending on how much you earn, this could be every month or every quarter. 

5. Get your insurance in order

In Germany, it’s a legal requirement to have health insurance.

If you’ve just made the move from employment to being a freelancer and want to keep the same health insurer, you should get in contact with your health insurance provider straight away to tell them about your change of circumstances. They will ask you to re-register and to tell them your projected freelance earnings for the year, so they can amend your monthly fees.

If you don’t keep your health insurer provider updated, you could continue to be charged the higher rate that you had from your previous salary.

The insurance cards of the health insurance companies DAK, AOK, Barmer and Techniker-Krankenkasse TK lie with euro notes under a stethoscope. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Daniel Karmann

It’s not just health insurance you need to think about as a freelancer. It’s also wise to think about protecting yourself from any sort of claims that could arise as a result of any working mishaps. 

If, for example, you lose your laptop which contains confidential client information, you need to be protected against claims.

That’s why it’s good to have both Betriebshaftversicherung (business liability insurance) and Rechtschutzversicherung (legal protection insurance).

6. Plan your time wisely

All of these bureaucratic obligations take time. So it’s really important that you take account of that when planning your time. For example, planning half a day a week to deal with your invoices, filing, emails to clients, and conversations with authorities can be really beneficial when scheduling your working time. 

7. Grow your network

As a freelancer, networking is absolutely crucial to success. 

Keep an up-to-date profile on websites like LinkedIn and German equivalent XING and keep in contact with anyone you’ve ever worked with, no matter how brief the contact was. 

Having a network is not only about getting more clients, but also about building a support network in your field to exchange advice, tips and generally for your own enrichment. 

Participating in workshops related to your field, going to seminars, and meet-ups, can be great ways of broadening your network. 

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