At DZ Bank, Helmut Gottschalk was seen as a hard-working and strict supervisory board chairman. Now he is supposed to control Commerzbank – what distinguishes this man?

Helmut Gottschalk

Dhe Commerzbank solves its leadership crisis on the Supervisory Board with a retired cooperative banker. Helmut Gottschalk, until May 2018 chairman of the supervisory board of the central bank of the Volks- und Raiffeisenbanken DZ Bank, is to become the new chairman of the supervisory board of Commerzbank.

The Black Forest native, who will be 70 years old in July this year, will succeed Hans-Jörg Vetter, who surprisingly had to resign from his position on March 16 for health reasons. As a result, Commerzbank, which had already entered an unprecedented management crisis in 2019 with the departure of four board members, has once again been thrown back.

In 2020, Commerzbank announced the highest annual loss since the financial crisis in 2009 and is in the middle of restructuring. Every third job in Germany and almost every second branch will be cut and closed by the end of 2023, the new CEO Manfred Knof announced in February.

Knof and Gottschalk reportedly telephoned each other over the weekend, it can be assumed that they are pulling together. Both are considered number-oriented and not very empathetic. Nevertheless, Stefan Wittmann, who sits on the supervisory board for the Verdi union, welcomed the decision in favor of Gottschalk. “The former chairman of the supervisory board of DZ Bank can deal with heterogeneous structures, was respected by all employees there, is very well networked and knows a lot about sales. This means that Mr. Gottschalk has strengthened the Commerzbank supervisory board, ”said Wittmann of the FAZ

“He has the captain’s license”

Gottschalk selected the selection committee of the supervisory board under the leadership of Jutta Dönges, the supervisory board member of the major shareholder Bund. She had already tried in the summer to make the long-standing DZ-Bank CEO Wolfgang Kirsch the new Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Commerzbank. But Kirsch declined with reference to his other mandates – among other things, he is chairman of the supervisory board of the health care company Fresenius.

It seems reasonable to assume that Kirsch has now been approached again and recommended Gottschalk, with whom he formed a successful tandem for many years at DZ Bank, for Commerzbank. “Helmut Gottschalk is determined and decisive, has in-depth knowledge of the private customer business, can assess risks and will support the recovery course taken by Mr. Knof without any ifs or buts. He has the captain’s license, ”Kirsch told the FAZ on Monday

Compared to its predecessor cousin, Gottschalk appears to be a smaller caliber. While Vetter restructured the Landesbank Berlin and Baden-Württemberg (LBBW), among others, Gottschalk worked from 1982 to 2017 as a board member and from 1997 as board spokesman for Volksbank Herrenberg, which, after several mergers, became a Volksbank in Baden-Württemberg with a volume of almost 3 billion Euro balance sheet total grew. Compared to Commerzbank with its business volume of around 500 billion euros, Volksbank Herrenberg-Nagold-Rottenburg, as it is called today, is, however, tiny.

Is he up to the task?

How can someone like that control a major bank? This question arose at DZ Bank, which, thanks to its large subsidiaries such as Bausparkasse Schwäbisch Hall, R + V Versicherung and the investment company Union Investment, has total assets of 560 billion euros and is therefore even more complex than Commerzbank. The practicing Protestant Gottschalk, who is committed to the dialogue with the Catholics and thus to the ecumenical movement, is not always a laughing Hans-Dampf in all alleys, but also as a banker piously strict, very hardworking and knows how to read and read bank balance sheets regardless of their size Recognizing the risks involved is a response from companions.