Who Is Josef Ackermann?

Josef Ackermann (1948- ) is a Swiss banker who served as CEO and chair of Deutsche Bank (2002-2012). From 2014-2019, he served as chair of the Bank of Cyprus. He has also served as a member of the Group of Thirty (G30), a Washington, D.C.-based group of top international economists and financiers. He also held a seat on the steering committee of the Bilderberg Group.

Key Takeaways

  • Josef Ackermann is a Swiss banker primarily known as the CEO and chair of Deutsche Bank from 2002-2012.
  • Ackermann was born in Switzerland where he studied economics, spent time in the military, and began his career at Credit Suisse.
  • During his time at Credit Suisse in the 80s and 90s, Ackermann rose through the ranks, eventually becoming General Director and a member of the board.
  • After many disagreements with the CEO of Credit Suisse on the direction of the firm, Ackermann left and eventually joined Deutsche Bank as a member of the board.
  • At Deutsche Bank, Ackermann was responsible for a variety of mergers and expanding the global operations of the firm.
  • In 2002, Ackermann became CEO of Deutsche Bank, and during his tenure at the firm, he made it into a global leading investment bank.
  • After Deutsche Bank, Ackermann served as chair of the Bank of Cyprus. He has also held positions as chair and president on the boards of other firms.
Josef Ackermann

Alison Czinkota / Investopedia

Understanding Josef Ackermann

Born in Walenstadt, Canton of St. Gallen, Switzerland in 1948, Josef Ackermann attended the University of St. Gallen, where he studied economics and social sciences. Upon completing his undergraduate studies, Ackermann remained at the University of St. Gallen as a research assistant with the Department of Economics; he eventually earned his Ph.D. in economics. Early on, he was encouraged to go into both academic and military careers, during and after his education as well as from his time in the military, but he began his career as a corporate banker with Credit Suisse in 1977.

Ackermann quickly rose through the ranks at Credit Suisse, where he was eventually promoted to General Director in 1990, thereby becoming a member of the board. He became President of the executive board in 1993. After disagreeing with then CEO, Rainer Gut on a variety of areas, Ackermann left Credit Suisse.

Ackermann landed at Deutsche Bank as a member of the board of directors, spearheading many mergers and improving global operations. Ackermann served as CEO of Deutsche Bank from 2002 to 2012, following CEO Rolf Breuer, who tasked Ackermann with making Deutsche Bank a global investment bank.

As CEO, he introduced to Deutsche Bank a new shareholder-focused management style, helped the company expand internationally, and increased its focus on investment banking. He earned €9.6 million in 2009 and €8.9 million in 2010. When faced with sanctions from the U.S. Justice Department in 2015, Deutsche Bank reportedly attempted to reclaim tens of millions of euros in bonuses paid to Ackermann and other former CEOs.

Throughout his tenure at Deutsche Bank, Ackermann was faced with many legal troubles related to the bank's business, primarily in misleading investors about the quality of subprime mortgages that contributed to the Great Recession. Other changes occurred throughout his time at the bank, such as breaches of trust. Ackermann avoided any jail time but many cases were settled out of court.

Deutsche Bank has also become notorious for its relationship with Donald Trump and the loans made to his businesses, however, this was in the 1990s, before Ackermann's time at the bank.

Other Positions Held by Ackermann

Ackermann has served on the boards of Bayer, Deutsche Lufthansa, Linde, Mannesmann, Siemens, Zurich Financial Services, and Royal Dutch Shell. He has also been a visiting professor of Finance at the London School of Economics and a visiting professor at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University. Positions he has held include:

  • Second Deputy Chair of Siemens AG
  • Non-Executive Director of Shell
  • President of the Board of Trustees for the St. Gallen Foundation for International Studies
  • President of the Board of Patrons of the Institute for Corporate Culture Affairs
  • Chair of the Board of Directors of the Institute of International Finance
  • Chair of the Board of Directors of the World Economic Forum
  • Non-Executive Director of Vodafone from 2000-2002.