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Meet the man with the best (and safest) job at Deutsche Bank in Asia

It’s not often that a Western bank (aside from Standard Chartered) chooses to locate a global head of a major team in Singapore. It’s still more unusual for a large bank to base its global head of credit trading in the Republic, but there is one exception: Deutsche Bank’s Chetankumar Shah.

Shah is in fact the only one of his kind in all of Asia. Moreover, he now finds himself in charge of a team that is becoming increasingly central to chief executive Christian Sewing’s efforts to restructure Deutsche Bank in Asia and globally. Not only has Shah’s team survived Sewing’s job cuts (18,000 roles are being axed) largely intact, it’s tipped to expand its headcount, including in Asia. If you want to join a ‘safe’ team at Deutsche in Asia, this is one of them (private banking and transaction banking are among the others).

Deutsche’s Asian franchise has not been spared from its global jobs cull – its equities operations in the region have been closed down, for example. In contrast, with Shah at the helm, Deutsche’s credit-trading unit has become an important revenue generator for the firm, contributing about half of the €5.4bn in revenues that its currency and bond-trading operations made last year, according to analyst estimates.

Shah is based in Singapore rather than the US or Europe because, “Asia is an important growth market for the bank,” says a spokesperson for the firm. Deutsche’s credit trading team, which unlike most of its rivals focuses on distressed debt rather than flow trading, is pinning much of its hopes for future growth on China and India. Singapore, an offshore trading hub, is well positioned to service both these emerging markets.

Shah’s team, which reportedly employs about 100 people in Asia, will hire in small numbers over the next 12 months in Singapore, says a headhunter in the city state. “Deutsche Bank’s global credit trading team is stable and well respected, but we selectively look to hire when business demands,” adds the DB spokesperson.

Singapore-based Amit Khattar, Deutsche’s co-head of investment bank, Asia Pacific, told Bloomberg last July that the credit trading team had “no constraint in terms of scaling up” as it sought to take advantage of a surge in stressed assets in India triggered by bankruptcy law changes.

This week, in an interview with IFR, Shah has been talking up China, where the market for bad loans is still comparatively opaque but is starting to grow. Shah has helped DB establish what IFR describes as a “formidable financing and distressed debt business” in China thanks to its joint venture with firms such as China Huarong Asset Management, and Hong-Kong-based fund Clearwater Capital Partners.

It’s not only geographical growth that Shah has got going for him at Deutsche. His team’s prowess in the specialist and complex field of distress debt appears to stand him in good stead with the CEO. Sewing’s overhaul of the bank has seen Deutsche cut back in high-volume flow trading of vanilla products – equities has been culled globally as has much of the rates trading business. Several fixed income traders have left the bank since the restructuring was announced in July, most notably Ioannis Pipilis, the former head of fixed income trading, who’s now at SoftBank’s Vision Fund. 

In contrast, Sewing said last year that structured credit is a crucial business that warrants more investment. Deutsche may now have the largest distressed debt business of any bank, reports IFR, while Coalition data regularly places the German firm in the top-tier in terms of its overall credit trading business.

If you want to work for Shah in Singapore, be aware that he is targeting a recent growth market in debt finance: private credit. “The private credit space is growing much faster than the public markets. At Deutsche Bank we have been at the forefront of that, making sure this is at the centre of our strategy,” Shah told IFR.

Taking a job in Shah’s team could also do wonders for your public profile. Sajid Javid, who was head of global credit trading for Asia at Deutsche between 2007 and 2019, is now the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer (Minister of Finance).

Image credit: Getty

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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