Helmut Gottschalk is uncomfortable.

His critics even accuse him behind closed doors of being obsessed with detail.

He does not begrudge the board members of Commerzbank their privileges such as a driver or an assistant for pouring coffee.

Another accusation is that he interferes too much in day-to-day business for a supervisory board chairman.

Behind these accusations is sometimes the frustration of an organization that resists change.

Hanno Mussler

Editor in Business.

  • Follow I follow

The accusations can be further understood, even if they are exaggerated.

In March 2021, Gottschalk was deliberately selected by the federal government, which has the say on the supervisory board as a major shareholder, as Commerzbank controller because he was not a previous member of the board.

This means that the Swabian, who will be 71 this year, has a more independent perspective than his predecessors Klaus-Peter Müller and Stefan Schmittmann: Many things at Commerzbank are not a matter of course for him, and his previous distance automatically leads to more inquiries.

The first thing he changed was the bonuses

Added to this is his nature: Gottschalk already earned a reputation for being a thorough analyst during his time as Chairman of the Supervisory Board of DZ Bank.

In the struggle for the best solution, he never gives in easily, he demands performance and he does not accept mistakes, even if they seem small and insignificant.

These character traits can now also be seen at Commerzbank.

There, Gottschalk is irritating with his performance orientation.

One of the first decisions Gottschalk made was to change the board bonuses.

Until now, Commerzbank has said that board members receive 50 percent of their possible bonus if 50 percent of the annual targets have been achieved.

Gottschalk quickly realized that this rule does not motivate enough and is therefore not in the interests of the shareholders.

Now board members get bonuses when 60 percent of goals are completed.

And the bonuses increase more slowly.

If a goal is achieved by 80 percent, board members only have about 25 percent of what is possible.

No mercy for the IT director

If you don't do enough in Gottschalk's eyes, you even have to leave completely.

The contract of IT board member Jörg Hessenmüller was extended by three years just a few days ago when it turned out that Commerzbank's largest IT project - the outsourcing of securities processing to HSBC - was on the verge of failure.

Hessenmüller had either concealed the damage of 300 million euros or was not aware of it himself, which was definitely a reason for Gottschalk to part with Hessenmüller.

In any case, the IT, for which Gottschalk committed to the former IKB board member Jörg Oliveri del Castillo-Schulz from January 2022, is a complex construction site: by 2024, Commerzbank will be separating around 10,000 employees, and digital processes are to replace them.

But if many employees are already leaving, IT is often not yet ready to replace them.

"It squeaks in one place or another," said CEO Manfred Knof - like Gottschalk in January 2021, he also came from outside - just admitted in the FAZ interview.