BMF wants to delegate Harald Christ to the supervisory board

Harold Christian

The FDP politician has not yet commented on the reports.

(Photo: IMAGO/Stefan Zeitz)

Frankfurt The backing of chairs on the Commerzbank Supervisory Board continues. In addition to chief controller Helmut Gottschalk, according to financial circles, Frank Czichowski will also resign at the next general meeting in May 2023. The former FDP treasurer and longtime banker Harald Christ is to move into the committee for him.

The federal government has been the largest shareholder since the state bailout of Commerzbank during the financial crisis in 2008 and sends two representatives to the supervisory body. In addition to Christ, Jutta Dönges will continue to represent the federal government at the bank, as several people familiar with the topic told the Handelsblatt.

Dönges’ second term came as a surprise to many. The manager finally gave up her job as managing director of the finance agency, which manages the federal share of 15.6 percent in Commerzbank, at the end of October.

Since the supervisory board position is a personal mandate and the federal government also wanted to ensure a certain continuity on the capital side of the supervisory board in view of two changes, it decided to extend the contract of the 49-year-old Hessin.

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At the finance agency, Dönges was responsible, among other things, for the Economic Stabilization Fund (WSF), which saved companies such as Lufthansa and the Tui tourism group from extinction during the corona crisis. She has been on the Commerzbank Supervisory Board since 2020 and has played a key role in determining the fortunes of Germany’s second largest private bank there.

>> Read here: Germany’s most prominent company rescuer Jutta Dönges resigns

After a few weeks in office, she first had to look for a successor for the resigned chief controller Stefan Schmittmann in 2020, and then in 2021 for Hans-Jörg Vetter, who resigned due to illness. In the spring of 2021, however, there was also criticism of Dönges. At that time, several supervisory board members gave up and justified this with the dominant role of the major shareholder, the federal government, from their point of view.

Before joining the finance agency, Dönges worked for Goldman Sachs and the Swedish SEB Bank, among others. Those involved say that she is extremely smart and always well prepared for supervisory board meetings. It is a blessing for Commerzbank to continue.

Debate about IMF chief post causes irritation

The former KfW manager Czichowski also enjoyed a high reputation at Commerzbank and could have imagined another term in office. Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) now prefers to send his own candidate with Christ, as the “Spiegel” had first reported.

Christ is 50 years old, twelve years younger than Czichowski. In the past, he worked for the building society BHW, Deutsche Bank and the insurance group Ergo, among others. Christ was a member of the SPD for many years, but then joined the FDP in 2020. Until April 2022 he was Federal Treasurer of the Liberals. Commerzbank and the Ministry of Finance did not want to comment on the personnel.

It was already announced at the weekend that the former President of the Bundesbank, Jens Weidmann, is to succeed Gottschalk, the head of the Supervisory Board. This was well received by most experts.

The fact that Weidmann is starting at the institute could persuade some investors to take another look at Commerzbank, wrote analyst Stuart Graham from Autonomous Research. “If a super smart person like Dr. Weidmann is enthusiastic about the future of Commerzbank, that can only be positive for the bank’s share price.” In addition, thanks to his political contacts, Weidmann could be helpful in the planned sale of the state stake in Commerzbank.

For some Commerzbankers, however, caused some irritation that Weidmann is also being traded as a candidate for the top post at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). If Weidmann is interested in this and is awarded the position that will become vacant at the end of 2024, he would probably have to resign as Chairman of the Supervisory Board at Commerzbank after a good year.

It can be assumed that there will be talks with Weidmann on this topic before his final nomination as head of the supervisory board. After the exchange so far, Commerzbank representatives have the impression that the position as head of the supervisory board is currently a clear priority for Weidmann. The likelihood that he will move on to the IMF after a short time is considered to be rather low at the headquarters on Frankfurt’s Kaiserplatz.

More: Jens Weidmann should be an uncomfortable head of the supervisory board at Commerzbank.

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