• Poor results for 2019 prompted calls for a new strategy
  • The bank announced more than 4,000 layoffs in the fall but offset the total with strategic hirings in several areas
  • The chairman of the bank's supervisory board has resigned effective Aug. 3

The head of Commerzbank’s (CBK.DE) supervisory board resigned Friday and CEO Martin Zielke offered to do the same amid shareholder pressure to cut thousands of jobs and reduce foreign operations to trim costs.

"I want to clear the way for a new beginning," said Zielke, who has held the position since May 1, 2016. "The bank needs a profound transformation and, therefore, a new CEO, who also gets the necessary time from the capital market to implement a strategy."

Stefan Schmittmann, chairman of the supervisory board, resigned effective Aug. 3.

The supervisory board had been scheduled to meet this week to consider a reorganization plan, but the session was canceled after employee representatives complained certain documents had not been provided in a timely manner. The meeting was rescheduled for Wednesday.

Germany’s second largest bank has been under pressure from shareholders including the German government, the bank’s largest shareholder, and U.S. activist investor Cerberus Capital Management, whose 5% stake makes it the bank’s second-largest shareholder.

An update on the bank’s strategy presented in September was criticized as being not aggressive enough.

Last month, the supervisory board rejected Cerberus’ demand for two seats on the board, saying there were no vacancies.

The New York Times reported Cerberus is pressing for the bank to cut more than 7,000 jobs in a dramatic restructuring.

At the end of 2019, the bank had 48,500 employees after more than 200 branches were closed and more than 4,000 jobs were cut in the fall. The job cuts, however, were partially offset by the creation of 2,000 jobs in strategic areas, including sales, information technology and regulation. At the end of the first quarter, the bank had 39,800 full-time employees.

The executive board said in February new austerity measures should be considered after disappointing 2019 results.

“Currently, different options and scenarios are being discussed. No decisions have been taken,” a Comerzbank spokeswoman told Reuters earlier this week.

The bank is considering closing 400 of its 1,000 remaining branches, the Times said.

Commerzbank shares closed 0.05% lower Friday.