Donald Trump has been toying with bankers for decades.
He bashed Wall Street during his presidential campaign, then filled his cabinet with ex-Goldman Sachs executives. He sued Deutsche Bank during the financial crisis, then publicly defended his lender of choice when he became president. He mocked his bankers by writing in a book that they lent him money for a deal he told them was no good.
He said he doesn't need or want money, so doesn't need or want banks, but still owes Deutsche around US$340m (NZ$476m) in outstanding loans. After over twenty years of being Trump's banker, Deutsche has finally said goodbye following the Washington riots.
"At last!" says one investor, a sentiment no doubt echoed by the bank's PR department. Its lengthy and complicated relationship with Trump, the first president in US history to be impeached twice, has been under review since 2016. It took a violent mob of Trump supporters to storm the US Capitol, leaving five dead, for the toxic relationship to officially end.
"Deutsche took so long to break ties for the same reason it took centrist GOP members so long to break from him. The business looked opportune when there's little perceived downside, and reputational risk doesn't have enough impact for short-term margin chasers," says US political scientist Ian Bremmer, the founder of Eurasia Group. "The US political system and the financial sector both suffer from a surfeit of short-term incentives."
These were never the circumstances in which Deutsche expected to turn the tap off. When the relationship began in 1998, the German bank was hugely powerful and the plan was to get even more so by taking on the American giants such as Goldman Sachs.
Trump was hardly the most appealing client given his recent string of defaults - an executive who joined the Trump Organisation in 1990 compared it to "getting on the Titanic just before the women and children were moved to the lifeboats". But the property developer was a well-known face in America and so concerns about his businesses previous near-collapses went overlooked.
Deutsche was one of the few willing to lend to Trump, hopeful that the potential rewards of doing so would be huge.
The goldrush never materialised. During the 2008 financial crash Trump sued the bank and refused to pay a loan on a project in Chicago, partly blaming it for being responsible for the crisis.
The bank retaliated and the issue was later resolved. Yet it continued to bankroll him in the years that followed, only stopping to lend to him after he won the election in 2016.
That year an internal report exploring how the bank had become so embroiled with Trump flagged a broader cultural problem that had valued getting deals done and winning over America's super-rich no matter what the cost, sources told The New York Times. Trump had boasted about his Wall Street connections to the newspaper around the same time.
"I am friends with all the major banks," he said. "They are dying to do business with me. [..] Why don't you call the head of Deutsche Bank? Her name is Rosemary Vrablic. She is the boss."
But Vrablic was never the boss. At the time the chief executive was John Cryan while she was Trump's private banker, getting a seat at his inauguration as a VIP guest. She retired only last month.
Last summer the bank opened a review into a 2013 property deal conducted between her and a company partly owned by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is understood to have had no involvement in the deal. With Vrablic, Deutsche and others now out of the frame, there is a question over who the self-styled "king of debt" will bank with next.
"He won't be able to rebuild ties with first tier banks," says Bremmer. "But he can go down market - the US doesn't have the same degree of monopoly power in banking as in tech, there are banks that will do business with him."
For Deutsche, the scrutiny surrounding Trump's finances during his presidency has added to the negative publicity surrounding a bank that has had its reputation battered by money-laundering probes and sanctions violations.
The hopes it had in the '90s of taking on Wall Street with big-name American clients has backfired spectacularly (last summer it agreed to pay $150m over compliance failures, which included its dealings with Jeffrey Epstein). The once-powerful German institution has given up on its global ambitions and will now be hoping to be out of the spotlight.
As Deutsche tries to keep a low profile, Trump may find he needs those banks after all. Stephen Clapham, founder of investment consultancy Behind the Balance Sheet, says his losses on his Scottish golf courses continued into 2019 and "things will have got much worse, likely across his empire, in 2020". He points out that the strategy of spend to grow only works with access to finance.
"If that dries up, expect asset sales. Trump's equity is likely a small sliver between a collection of property and leisure assets and a large mountain of debt. Covid has shrunk the assets and ballooned the debt."
Yet Andrew Downes, a political science professor at Purdue University Fort Wayne, thinks this might not be the end of the road for the Trump family and Deutsche. "We will have to wait and see what happens if one of Donald Trump's children presents an investment opportunity to Deutsche Bank," he says.
- Telegraph Media Group