Deutsche Bank this week announced that Global Head of Human Resources, Michael Ilgner, would be leaving the company, following an internal compliance probe into his purchase of the bank's bonds.
The ill-timed transaction has raised serious concerns about unethical practices within Germany's largest lender, ultimately leading to Ilgner's departure.
The revelation came through a note addressed to the bank's staff, in which Ilgner stated, "I have made the decision to leave the bank and hand over my responsibilities at the end of July."
He further explained that he believed now was the ‘opportune moment’ to pursue external opportunities.
It appears that the purchase of the Deutsche Bank bonds by Ilgner was in direct violation of the bank's own internal compliance rules. These rules explicitly prohibit employees from acquiring the bank's securities within eight weeks before the release of its quarterly results.
The fact that Ilgner, as the Head of Human Resources, would engage in such conduct raises serious questions about the bank's ethical standards and internal controls.
Michael Ilgner, a former professional water polo player, took charge of Deutsche Bank's workforce, comprising nearly 90,000 employees, in March 2020.
His tenure coincided with the bank's attempt to cut 18,000 jobs by 2022, a target that remained largely unmet. Deutsche Bank recently announced plans to intensify its cost-cutting efforts, including the immediate elimination of 800 senior back-office roles this year.
Ilgner's purchase of €201,000 worth of Deutsche bonds just over a week before the bank's first-quarter results were posted, triggered an internal compliance probe.
Although there is no evidence of bad faith or an attempt to exploit insider information, such behaviour is regarded as a serious violation within the organisation. The probe ultimately led to Ilgner's departure from the bank.
Deutsche Bank's CEO, Christian Sewing, and COO, Rebecca Short, issued a joint statement acknowledging Ilgner's contributions to the bank's talent development and performance management.
However, they refrained from commenting on the compliance probe. In a previous statement, the bank emphasised its commitment to taking internal compliance rules seriously and investigating any potential violations, irrespective of hierarchy.
While Ilgner's appointment initially included plans for him to join the bank's management Board, this proposal was quietly abandoned. In April, Ilgner lost his direct reporting line to Sewing when Short assumed the role of the most senior executive responsible for HR.
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One of Ilgner's notable initiatives during his tenure was the implementation of ambitious gender diversity targets. Deutsche Bank aims to fill approximately 50% of vacant senior management positions with women, but currently, only 17% of the bank's most senior non-executive leaders are female.
The bank has set a goal of increasing this representation to 30% by 2025, highlighting the necessity of greater diversity among senior executives.
The bank has noted that it is actively searching for a successor to fill the HR role, considering both internal and external candidates. In the interim, Andrea Cozzi and Volker Steuer will assume leadership responsibilities for the HR department.