Dieter Rampl
1947–

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Managing director and chief executive officer, Bayerische Hypo- und Vereinsbank (HVB Group)

Nationality: German.

Born: September 5, 1947, in Munich, Germany.

Career: Societe de Banque Suisse, 1969–1970, collections and foreign-trade finance, Geneva; Bayerische Vereinsbank, 1971–1973, foreign trade and commodity finance, Munich; 1974–1980, senior lending officer, North America Corporation and Credit Department, New York; 1981–1982, senior lending officer, Nordrhein-Wesfalia, Düsseldorf; BHF-Bank, 1983–1984, head of U.S. corporations in Europe and corporations in Belgium and Holland; 1984–1987, senior vice president and manager, New York branch; 1988–1992, general manager, export and trade finance, Frankfurt; 1993–1995, general manager, Corporation Finance, Frankfurt, and member of the board of managing directors; Bayerische Vereinsbank, 1995–1998, member of the board of managing directors; Bayerische Hypo- und Vereinsbank (HVB Group), 1998–2002, member of the board of managing directors; 2003–, managing director and chief executive officer.

Address: HVB Group, Am Tucherpark 16, 80538 Munich, Germany; http://www.hvbgroup.com.

■ Dieter Rampl took over what most banking-industry analysts considered one of the toughest jobs in Europe when he became managing director and CEO in January 2003 of one of Germany's largest banks, Bayerische Hypo- und Vereinsbank, also known as HVB Group. The floundering bank's troubles were amplified by a poor German economy as Rampl set out to win back investors' trust and put the bank back on track. Analysts noted that Rampl firmly established control over the company's many subsidiaries and was able to keep his equanimity throughout the worst financial times in the bank's history.

Dieter Rampl. AP/Wide World Photos.
Dieter Rampl.
AP/Wide World Photos
.

TAKING OVER A TROUBLED BANK

Rampl began his banking career in 1969 at Societe de Banque Suisse in Geneva, working in collections and foreign-trade finance. He joined Vereinsbank in 1971, working in foreign trade and commodity finance in Munich, Germany, before going to New York to work in the bank's North America Corporation and Credit Department subsidiary. After spending seven years in the United States, Rampl was assigned to Düsseldorf as senior lending officer. In 1983 he left Vereinsbank and joined BHF-Bank as head of U.S. corporations in Europe and corporations in Belgium and Holland. He spent the next dozen years at BHF-Bank, where he was appointed to the board of managing directors in 1993. Rampl returned to Vereinsbank in 1995 as a member of the board of managing directors. Through mergers, Vereinsbank became Bayerische Hypo- und Vereinsbank (HVB Group) in 1998, and Rampl continued as a member of the board of managing directors.

Rampl gained a good reputation for his ability to restructure divisions, and HVB soon turned to him for help. By the end of 2002 the company found itself in dire straits, primarily due to the bad debts of German companies that had gone into bankruptcy. In the third quarter of 2002 alone, the company had to make bad-debt provisions of $1.25 billion, which represented more than double its operating profit of $545 million. Overall, analysts were predicting that HVB's loan losses would reach $3.4 billion. Furthermore, Standard & Poor's placed HVB on a "credit watch." The company tapped Rampl to turn HVB around, appointing him managing director and the new CEO beginning in 2003. A managing board member of a rival bank told David Fairlamb of Business Week , "I don't think I could sleep if I had [Rampl's] problems. The loan book alone would give me nightmares" (January 20, 2003).

FIGHTS ROUGH SEAS

In fact, Rampl took over the reins five months earlier than expected. His predecessor, Albrecht Schmidt, had originally intended to resign following the next year's annual general meeting, but stepped down earlier with the worsening economic news. Rampl took charge of Germany's second-biggest bank, with more than $730 billion in assets and 8.5 million retail customers. He said he was determined to put HVB back on track and regain the trust of investors. It would not be easy as the bank was hit hard by the poor condition of the German economy. A little more than a month after Rampl took over, the bank announced that it had a net loss before taxes in 2002 of more than EUR 800 million, a far bigger loss than expected. A year earlier HVB had made a profit of EUR 1.5 billion. In an interview with BBC News Rampl admitted that the year had been "the most difficult and worst in the bank's history" (February 19, 2003).

Rampl and HVB were not alone, however, as other German banks struggled and investors expressed nervousness over their solvency. Rampl confirmed to the Evening Standard of London that HVB had even gone so far as to meet with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to discuss creating a "bad loans bank" to help clean up their balance sheets (February 26, 2003). Nevertheless, Rampl remained optimistic that he could turn around the bank's fortunes, noting that he believed the worst was over. He pointed out that the bank was on track in its "Transformation 2003" program to reduce administrative costs and ultimately improve earnings. The restructuring effort also included plans to sell some of the bank's assets and spin off its entire commercial real-estate business.

According to Rampl, the real-estate move was crucial to HVB's effort to break after a damaging pretax loss of more than EUR 800 million in 2002. Analysts noted that bad loans made by HVB Real Estate Bank caused huge losses in recent years. The decision to spin off the real-estate activities had been a difficult one for Rampl, who noted that the move greatly diminished the bank's size to the point of threatening its second-place ranking in Germany. Rampl told the Banker : "Yes, I agree that it marks a shift from our previous expansionist strategy, but what are we supposed to do after a 821 [million euro] loss?" (May 1, 2003).

TURNS A PROFIT

Analysts were shocked when Rampl maneuvered the bank into turning a quarterly profit of EUR 107 million by November 2003. To shore up core capital, Rampl had sold much of the bank's assets. As reported by Retail Banker International , analysts noted that HVB needed "to sell some of the 'family silver' not only because of Rampl's strategic overhaul, but also to replenish the bank's capital reserves" (January 14, 2003).

Yet analysts remained concerned because HVB's domestic unit in Germany accounted for two-thirds of its earnings and was floundering. They noted that the most difficult task, showing that he could make money in its main operating business, still needed to be done. Investment banker Ralph Lau was quoted in Troubled Company Reporter Europe as saying, "Rampl needs to turn around the German business and improve its profitability" (October 29, 2003).

Some analysts approved Rampl's early restructuring efforts despite the fact that the company had ended 2002 with a core-capital ratio, which is an important measure of financial stability, of 5.6 percent, somewhat below the 6 percent usually seen as obligatory within the banking community. Bundesbank board member Edgar Meister told BBC News , "From the Bundesbank's point of view, HVB has taken appropriate steps to strengthen its business a while ago and is on the right track in my opinion" (February 27, 2003).

Some analysts suggested that the company should seek a merger. When Rampl received the backing of HVB's board to raise at least EUR 3 billion of fresh capital to clean the German bank's balance sheet, many saw this as paving the way for a possible merger with its competitor Commerzbank. However, Rampl quickly put a stop to such speculation and told Vita Bekker of Bloomberg.com , "At the moment, the right thing for us to do is to rely on our own strengths and focus on profit growth" (May 27, 2004). Nevertheless, Rampl did not rule out the possibility of a merger at a later date.

MANAGEMENT STYLE: MR. COOL

Analysts generally described Rampl as cool, calm, and confident. For example, a Munich-based money manager commented on Rampl's general joie de vivre even in troubled times by noting that "Dieter would still have been smiling if the HVB ship had sunk with all hands" ( Euroweek , May 7, 2004). Reports such as these along with Rampl's style earned him Euroweek 's tongue-in-cheek "Most Optimistic Banker of 2003" award (November 7, 2003). Despite his seemingly laid-back approach, analysts praised Rampl for his focus on the bottom line. In one article he was described as one of "a new breed of managers who understand—and not before time—that shareholder value requires 100 percent commitment to performance targets" ( European Banker , February 2004).

Rampl's easy-going nature was complemented by the skills and personality needed to oversee far-reaching changes in the company, noted Fairlamb in BusinessWeek . For example, prior to Rampl taking over, HVB had taken a decentralized approach, with the management of regional banks retaining a great deal of autonomy. Rampl changed that. One market analyst said, "The managerial shift could be compared to a parent who finally realizes the children are all off doing their own thing and not always with the optimum results." Analysts also noted that Rampl was not a micromanager. "His goal is to make sure his lieutenants are on the same page as he is. His aim is to squeeze maximum performance forged by closer ties with Munich, and that is a smart management move" ( European Banker , February 2004).

See also entry on Bayerische Hypo- und Vereinsbank AG (HVB Group) in International Directory of Company Histories .

sources for further information

"And More HVB Subsidiaries For Sale," Retail Banker International , January 14, 2003, p. 3.

"Cash-Call Fears Hit HVB Shares," BBC News , February 27, 2003, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/2805405.stm .

"Down for the Count," BusinessWeek , January 20, 2003, p. 42.

"Global News: Spin-off Of HVB Real Estate," Banker , May 1, 2003.

"Historic Loss for German Bank Giant," BBC News , February 19, 2003, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/2779375.stm .

"HVB GROUP: Analysts Peg Q3 Profit Within EUR 100 Million Range," Troubled Company Reporter Europe , October 29, 2003, http://bankrupt.com/TCREUR_Public/031029.mbx .

"HVB Left in the Ditch as Commerz Flashes Past," Euroweek , May 7, 2004, p. 20.

"HVB Profits: Tell the Pike To Go Take a Hike," Euroweek , November 7, 2003, p. 16.

"HVB's Rampl Says Merger Not Priority as Bank Focuses on Profits," Bloomberg.com , May 27, 2004, http://quote.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000100&refer=germany&sid=ab3S_0x4yEM8 .

"In Brief: German Banks in State Bailout Talks," Evening Standard (London), February 26, 2003.

Skelly, Jessica, "Leading From the Centre at HVB," European Banker , February 2003, p. 3.

—David Petechuk



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