Deutsche Bank’s Renaissance man: John Cryan is a cultured accountant ready to take on his biggest challenge

Michael Bow
Follow Michael
Deutsche Bank on Sunday appointed John Cryan to lead the bank from 1 July this year
With an encyclopedic knowledge of Mozart and a finely honed understanding of fine wine, Deutsche Bank’s new British boss John Cryan is a far cry from the masters of the universe-type banker.

Cryan’s appointment at the top of Germany’s financial establishment has cast the spotlight on a man who, until Sunday, had worked in positions of great importance but off the radar of close public scrutiny.

People close to Cryan describe his ferocious intelligence, inventiveness and dry sense of humour as attributes which will stand him in good stead as he tries to steer Deutsche through its current crisis.

“He’s an incredibly clever man with an extraordinary work ethic,” said a person who has previously worked with Cryan. “He’s a very nice guy and very modest. He’s understated; you’d never know if you met him how high -powered he is.”

“He works all the hours God sends,” said another figure who has worked with the 55-year old. “And he is exceptionally clever.”

Cryan, a Cambridge graduate, joined Arthur Andersen’s London office after graduating and spent the next five years as a trainee chartered accountant.

He moved to SG Warburg’s Finsbury Avenue HQ at the age of 27, which initiated his rise to the top.

A stint in the Munich office three years later was followed by a move into Warburg’s fledgling financial institutions group at the age of 33, where he remained for the next decade and a half.

While industry observers point to his lack of experience running a large organisation as a hurdle, his battle scars from the 2008 financial crisis demonstrate his ability to effect change when the stakes are high.

As chief financial officer of UBS at the peak of the 2008 financial crisis, he helped engineer the bank’s £3.1bn bailout by the Swiss government.

Well-regarded by global financial regulators for his steady stewardship during the crisis, the stakes at Deutsche are at least as high as those Cryan faced at UBS.

But given his meticulous approach, it’s likely he’ll approach Deutsche’s problem with a similar vigour.

“He’s very smart, very likeable and very demanding,” another colleague who worked with Cryan said.

“The question is can he lead a bank? It’s one thing being CFO but another to run a bank day to day. But he’s the man to take on the challenge.”

Related articles