Deutsche Bank's new head of HR is more than just friends with the CEO

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As from March 2020, Deutsche Bank's 90,000 global employees and €10bn+ compensation and benefits budget will be controlled by a new global head of HR who currently manages around 40 staff. Deutsche announced the appointment of Michael Ilgner at the start of this month, but it seems to have taken a while for thoughts about the new recruit to percolate. Nearly two weeks later, questions are apparently being raised by regulators. 

Bloomberg reports that Deutsche's regulators are concerned that Ilgner isn't qualified for the job. He hasn't worked in banking. He used to be an Olympic water polo player and is currently CEO of Deutsche Sporthilfe, a German Sport Aid Foundation, which has a budget of $20m a year.  

None of this would seem to recommend Ilgner as a DB head of HR, or ultimately as a member of Deutsche's management board. 

So what does he have? When Deutsche CEO Christian Sewing announced Ilgner's appointment, he boasted of his new hire's, "wealth of experience in developing talent and configuring change processes," of his experience, "making key improvements to talent development," and his, "passion and his fresh approach." 

Ilgner also has a long relationship with Sewing himself. Sewing is on Deutsche Sporthilfe's supervisory board and Deutsche has been supporting Sporthilfe for around 40 years. Deutsche's website contains photos of the two men such as that accompanying this article, going back to 2016. Sporthilfe's own site is also peppered with quotes from Sewing at various award ceremonies. Sewing is a passionate tennis player who wanted to be a sports journalist before going into banking and is clearly interested in sporting excellence and probably impressed by Ilgner's own sporting prowess.

However, Ilgner also has a few other facets to his experience which have so far been overlooked. A trained industrial engineer, before joining Sporthilfe he spent several years at Booz Allen Hamilton in Germany. He joined the consulting firm in 1999 and was appointed to the German management board in 2003. Booz Allen has around 400 full-time employees in Germany and Ilgner was responsible for €300m in revenues there. Before leaving Booz Allen in 2006, Ilgner also spent a year on secondment at Johnson Controls and restructured 40+ factories around Europe. During his tenure at Sporthilfe, he's quadrupled sponsorship money. He's not just a pretty face.

Deutsche neglected to mention any of this at the time of Ilgner's appointment. A spokesman for the bank said Ilgner is being hired, "with a long term perspective" and that he will not join the management board until regulatory requirements are met. "There is no reason at all to hurry," he added, pointing out that Fabrizio Campelli is the board member responsible for HR and transformation in the interim. 

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