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The View from Germany’s Banking Sector

December 18, 2012

Martin Blessing, ’88, the CEO at Germany’s No. 2 bank, offered candid insights on Europe, his career, and more during a visit to Booth’s London campus in November.

The chairman of the board of managing directors for Commerzbank AG said he was growing more confident the Eurozone would survive its financial storm. Talking with students in the Executive MBA Program as well as London-based alumni, Blessing also said he believes the United Kingdom’s political influence on the continent will wane as it remains apart from the 17-nation alliance.

Blessing shared brunch with Commerzbank employees enrolled in the program before giving a lunchtime talk open to all students and alumni.

Europe’s struggles made 2012 a rough year for financial institutions, including Frankfurt-based Commerzbank, which is among Europe’s top 20 banks.

The financial giant plans further investment in its core businesses and predicts a return on equity after taxes of more than 10 percent until 2016.

Blessing, Commerzbank chairman since 2008, has seen a lot of change in the industry and said more lies ahead. He predicted continued consolidation, which will have implications for global growth and jobs in the financial industry. A reshuffling of the industry is likely in the next five years.

“It might be an interesting time to be starting a career, a fine time to be at the end of a career, but harder to be in the middle of a career,” the 49-year-old Blessing said.

His time at Chicago Booth was formative, he said. Living in the International House, he made a diverse group of friends, and said he valued being in a place that encouraged open debate.

Blessing said he learned that timing and luck are important, but one must prepared with a solid grounding in analytics. “You need to understand the situations you are facing.”

Don’t neglect social skills, he added, because “you need social skills to implement solutions. It’s all about teamwork. Life is much more than career and making money. And family is important, as is the need to take break from work and just go for a run.”—Chicago Booth staff