Louise Kitchen's tenure at Deutsche Bank is at an end. Together with Jonathan Tinker, co-head of global FX, Kitchen has reportedly stepped down following an internal investigation into the alleged mis-selling of foreign exchange derivatives to small companies in Spain. For some at Deutsche, her departure seems overdue. For others, she's been unfairly lambasted by (often male) traders and bankers whose wings she clipped and whose businesses she closed down.
Most recently, Kitchen ran Deutsche's Bank's capital release unit, a role she was appointed to in 2019 when CEO Christian Sewing announced his major restructuring of the German bank. Naming her one of the most influential women in European finance in 2019, Financial News noted that Kitchen had one of the "most complex and vital roles" at Deutsche, with sole responsibility for disposing of €72bn of risk weighted assets (RWAs), including the equity derivatives portfolio. By the end of 2020, RWAs in the unit had been more than halved.
It wasn't just unwanted assets. Working under multiple CEOs, Kitchen had a history of closing down businesses at Deutsche. In 2013, when Deutsche Bank was still run by Anshu Jain and Jürgen Fitschen, she closed the commodities business, resulting in 100 traders clearing their desks immediately. One Deutsche Bank insider says Kitchen was Deutsche's hatchet-woman. "She had a tough job and did it very well," he says, describing her as both "respected and feared." Kitchen didn't shut businesses for fun; she did it she "was asked to," he says.
For all those who respected Kitchen's ability, however, there were others who questioned her manner. "She yells on the floor like she’s some “Wall Street” film character from the 80s," complained one DB trader in 2019, "She thinks if she yells enough people will be scared and impressed. Another described her as "bad culturally," and said she could be difficult to work with, especially if you were junior.
Kitchen didn't respond to a request to comment on her exit from Deutsche Bank, and she hasn't been accused of any impropriety. However, she's no stranger to bouncing back from controversy. - Kitchen's second job on leaving the U.K.'s Kingston University in 1991 was at Enron, the energy firm that later collapsed due to accounting and corporate fraud. Kitchen herself wasn't implicated in the fraud, but as a junior gas trader she pioneered Enron's online energy trading business, reportedly working after hours and without the knowledge of senior Enron staff - who had vetoed the project. Enron collapsed on December 2nd 2001; in 2002 Kitchen joined UBS as managing director and head of distribution and structured products, energy. In 2005, she joined Deutsche Bank in a similar role; by 2019, she was running large chunks of the German bank's institutional clients business.
Kitchen's exit from Deutsche Bank marks the end of an era, although the nature of that era is open to dispute. For some, she's part of Deutsche's brash past and one of the "old school DB" people the bank is better off without. For others, she's a hyper-capable woman who got people's backs up by virtue of the things she was tasked with.
"Everyone has an expiry date," says one Deutsche Bank trader. "The real question is why Deutsche is now letting go of its expert of business closures. - Is it because we're done shrinking, and it's time to start growing again?" He suggests the answer is yes.
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