The 55-year-old former CEO of Allianz will join Commerzbank in January, ending a prolonged period of leadership limbo triggered by the joint resignation of Chairman Stefan Schmittmann and CEO Martin Zielke in early July.
The two decided to leave the lackluster German lender after private equity group Cerberus called for “a significant change to the supervisory board, the board of directors and the company’s strategic plan” to stop a “downward spiral Caused by what the investor called inflated costs, low profits and management inaction.
The ECB, the main European banking regulator, had previously urged Commerzbank to step up its restructuring efforts.
Commerzbank shares have lost nearly 50% since merger talks with national rival Deutsche Bank collapsed in April last year. Analysts expect the lender to take losses this year and next.
In the second quarter, Commerzbank’s operating profit slumped 34% year-over-year, while its net profit fell by a fifth as the lender was hit by the pandemic of Covid-19 and the insolvency of disgraced German payment provider Wirecard.
Last month, Commerzbank elected Hans-Jörg Vetter, the former managing director of German public lender LBBW, as its new chairman.
In a statement released on Saturday evening, Mr Vetter hailed Mr Knof as an “experienced and highly effective top manager who has a proven track record in a wide range of tasks in the financial services industry”, highlighting “the expertise and human leadership skills ”of the new CEO. . Mr. Knof’s appointment was unanimously approved by the Supervisory Board of Commerzbank.
Mr Knof, 55, joined Deutsche Bank a year ago after a long career spanning more than two decades with Germany’s largest insurance group Allianz, where he made a name for himself as “Ruthless manager” with little regard for union sensitivities and a determination to deliver results. “The crowbar is his favorite tool [in dealing with a conflict]A former Allianz colleague told the FT in 2019 after Mr. Knof joined Deutsche.
“I have a lot of respect for this new assignment,” Knof said in a statement on Saturday evening, stressing that the lender was “of great importance to the German economy”.