The New Face of Deutsche Bank Anshu Jain Mixes Success and Controversy
Part 3: A Vegan Jain
"Jain is personally against taking risks," says one of his aides. When he approved gigantic bets on the continued growth of the housing market across the Atlantic, Jain also permitted some of his investment bankers to bet on a collapse of the US real estate market. As a result of this hedging strategy, the subprime mortgage crisis did not affect the bank nearly as much as it did many of its competitors. But now it is precisely these deals that make the bank legally and morally vulnerable.
His friends in India and elsewhere insist that money doesn't mean that much to Jain. He still lives in a relatively modest house in West London with his wife and two children. "When Anshu celebrated his 25th wedding anniversary last March, there were no celebrities invited, just old friends from many countries around the world," says Madhur Singh, a friend of the family.
Jain probably has his parents to thank for his down-to-earth personality. Despite having received the highest grades on the entrance exam for the Indian government service in 1955, his father remained a relatively modestly paid civil servant. His son took a public bus to school, although it was one of the best private schools in New Delhi.
Jain has given his father a BMW with a chauffeur. But the 80-year-old prefers to drive himself to his bridge games. To his family's amusement, he recently bought a Tata Nano, the world's cheapest car.
As a vegan, Jain, a slim, athletic man, eats no animal products. This can give rise to some uncertainty among the Germans with whom he meets. A member of his inner circle characterizes his eating habits as "vegetables and pasta."
His surname identifies him as a Jain. Like his contemporary Buddha, Mahavira, the founder of this ascetic religion, preached nonviolence and set even stricter standards for the treatment of animals. The roughly 4 million Jains in India reject the caste system and attach great importance to education for their children.
Of course, the combination of Jainism and investment banking has prompted many a journalist to conduct avid research. But according to family members, there is no Puja corner, or trusted family shrine, in the Jain home. Jain has apparently not set foot in a temple in at least 10 years, not even during the three-week vacations he spends in India during the Christmas season.
The Jains are not all that different from families in other parts of the world. In many families, religion lives on primarily in the canon of values the parents use to set an example for their children. "Our fathers wanted us to have a good character and live disciplined lives," says cousin Amit, describing the child-rearing principles in the Jain family. Those who broke the rules as teenagers, for example, could expect to be punished.
According to a friend, Jain's wife Geetika, a travel writer and children's book author, is sometimes plagued by a touch of guilt and asks herself and wonders whether she shouldn't have sent her children to a Jain or Sikh temple more often. She is a Sikh and, like her children, eats meat at their London dinner table. Like Jainism, Sikhism also rejects the caste system and other forms of discrimination, but it doesn't emphasize asceticism as much.
After earning a Bachelor's degree at the University of Delhi, Geetika attended graduate school in the United States. Anshu Jain did the same thing, enrolling in the University of Massachusetts at Amherst at 20 and later earning an MBA there.
Can Jain Adjust to Germany?
The family has lived abroad for the last 28 years. The Jains have become British citizens and have made London their second home.
But will Jain settle down in Germany, as well?
He has recently been emphasizing how important Germany is to Deutsche Bank, a lesson he says he learned from the financial crisis. Recently, Jain has been characterizing the bank's German roots as one of its biggest strategic advantages.
To be on the safe side, the supervisory board has appointed Jürgen Fitschen, the 63-year-old head of the company's Germany business, to be his co-CEO for three years. The idea is that Fitschen can maintain the important relationship with German politicians and the German public. Fitschen is a jovial, outgoing, old-school banker with excellent contacts at all levels of management at Deutsche Bank, as well as with many German CEOs. In principle, he and his team will have a veto when it comes to introducing new products. Not everything a cunning investment banker from London comes up with will be well received in the world of a southern German small-business owner.
"It's a built-in and intentional conflict," says one of Fitsche's confidants. Ideally, he adds, this is the best way to avoid mistakes that could harm the bank's reputation and aggravate customers.
But it also offers plenty of explosive material. The opposing positions sometimes held by the two men have only been softened by the fact that Jain and Fitschen hold each other in high regard. For many years, Fitschen was responsible for the bank's Asian business.
Of course Jain, as the head of the bank's most profitable division, was usually in the stronger position, because Fitsche had no major business deals or even profits to show for himself.
In addition, Jain managed to integrate the important Global Transaction Banking business into his division a little over a year ago. The seemingly mundane transaction business, which the bank handles for companies, provides many important contacts and about 1 billion in profits each year -- profits that do not fluctuate as widely as those of the investment bankers.