Asked and answered! Christiana Riley, CEO of Deutsche Bank USA Corp, on Diversity, Impact of COVID-19 and the Geopolitical Situation

July 23, 2020
Spread the word!

AltoPartners Vienna Partners Caroline Rofe-Woess; Dr Julia Zdrahal-Urbanek, and Dr Gabriele Werner are privileged to share the insights of a truly impressive expert in Finance, Christiana Riley, CEO of Deutsche Bank USA Corp. Christiana´s reflections and thoughts on topics such as diversity, impact of COVID-19 and the geopolitical situation, make for an exciting and educational read. Christiana is a role model for young professional women everywhere.

Christiana Riley

Christiana Riley’s thoughts on…

…Board Diversification and Wome

We have certainly come a long way from where we were even a few years ago. As of last year, women now have a seat on the board of every S&P 500 company.

But it is important to consider what people from all walks of life bring to the table to drive success, not only women. We need a greater number of leaders who represent different ethnicities and social groups.

The recent social unrest in the United States that has been felt globally is a chapter of history that is being written by how we respond to it. We need to take hold of this moment and listen to the voices that traditionally have not been heard. We need to listen, learn, and make real changes. That is what is happening across many firms, and I am encouraged by what I see.

…The return to work post COVID-19

One thing I am very aware of, and have been emphasizing heavily, is that we have to guard against any implicit bias against people choosing to remain working for home longer than others because of their situation. Why? Because such bias is unfair.

Everyone has to manage their own personal and work responsibilities, which is particularly difficult for those with kids with schools closed, or when caring for elderly or those who are more at risk. We cannot have any bias against them because they cannot return to work as quickly as others.

Opportunities should be given to everyone equally through the staged returns to the office, and not just to people physically present in the office. Thought has to go into this to ensure this is done properly.

Secondly, I have noticed that productivity has been extremely high despite remote working, but the creativity that comes from being present with a team has waned. Creativity is a major input to all business success over the long term, which is why I am a major proponent for returning to the office when it is safe to do so. Those water-cooler moments, when a serendipitous meeting brings forth an idea that can grow and develop and ultimately bring value to the client, are very important.

…The Importance of staying connected, especially in COVID

COVID’s reshaping of our working lives was most acutely felt when we all found ourselves suddenly working from home. With everyone cut off from the usual forms of connection with colleagues, with extended family, and even with strangers given stores and parks were shut, we all become mindful of the level of our anxiety, and also distraction by the news and children at home.

Those first few weeks in particular were difficult for people as they grappled with their feelings, and it was the key moment to create new forms of connection in order to ensure no one was alone. Teams kept functioning and reprioritizing on a daily, if not hourly basis, and we as a bank were adapting to the new normal and supporting the global economy in a critical time of economic need.

At this point in time, tone from the top and connectivity with management at all levels is absolutely key. I looked to my leaders at this time to be especially close to all their team members—every day, with empathy, understanding, direction, and close coordination.

I have always had an open door and I had many great one-to-one conversations through that time. But, we also put in place regular All Staff calls, group video conferences, firm-wide emails, and frequent recorded video messages to ensure everyone was not only aligned, but connected and supported with timely content and insights, and the means to overcome challenges.

Key to this was the roll out of video technology to all staff. Audio is not enough when in lock down—so much communication is nonverbal. Also, seeing each other in our home environments has deepened connections between us, with kids and pets making frequent guest appearances on video conferences. When we return to the office, we will be stronger and more connected because of what we have experienced.

…Interplay of Work and Family during COVID

COVID has been hard on everyone who has to juggle caring for children with schools closed, or aging relatives. This has increased the workload of everyone, but particularly of women.

However, it has also led to a massive increase in the desire for most staff to work from home, at least some part of the week, given there are many benefits to working from home. The lockdown has increased time together as a family. While the lack of commuting decompression time brings challenges, being present at breakfast and also dinner, and being available intermittently throughout the day, has resulted in closer families.

This crisis is an opportunity for companies to rethink their flexible work arrangements for staff where an increased amount of time working from home works for the company as well as the individual.

Final thoughts

These unexpected times have seen extraordinary steps taken by governments and central banks. We have seen what were previously unimaginable tensions between keeping the public safe, our fundamental societal freedoms, and economic and social prosperity. Leaders in all industries need to continue to weigh this up carefully, but I am hopeful we will emerge from this crisis a fairer, closer, and more inclusive society.


Christiana Riley is a Member of the Management Board of Deutsche Bank AG and CEO of Deutsche Bank USA Corp. Christiana joined Deutsche Bank in September 2006, and held a number of roles with the bank’s Group Strategy division and served as the Bank’s Head of Corporate Strategy from 2011 – 2015. In 2015, she became CFO of Deutsche Bank’s global Corporate & Investment Bank, responsible for DB’s largest operating division. From 2016-2019, Christiana served as Chairman of the Audit Committee of Deutsche Postbank AG, and following its merger, as Audit Committee Chair of the Supervisory Board of the Deutsche Privat und Firmenkunden AG. Christiana serves on the Board of Directors for the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation. She also serves on the Supervisory Board of The Clearing House and is a member of the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees of the Institute of International Bankers. She is also a member of the Board of Trustees for American Council on Germany, the Arthur F. Burns Fellowship, and the Cranach Foundation. Additionally, Christiana is a member of the Board of Directors for the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies. Christiana graduated cum laude from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Arts in Romance Languages and Literature. She holds an MBA from the London Business School.