GERMANY – Josef Ackermann, chief executive of Deutsche Bank, has highlighted the role played by the bank’s owners such as pension funds.

The comments come amid anger from shareholders – and the wider German public – about the bank and capitalism in general.

“And let me emphasize something here: behind our institutional shareholders, that is to say insurance companies, capital investment companies and pension funds, there are ultimately private investors and depositors,” Ackermann, spokesman of the board of managing directors, said.

He told the bank’s annual general meeting in Frankfurt: “In the public discussion, it is frequently overlooked whose money is actually being invested.” He said that “behind every pension fund are workers and employees who are saving for their pensions”.

“These are investors like you! And we owe all of you the best possible return on your capital. Because this may also be a matter of your retirement pension.”

Debate is currently raging in Germany about capitalism and foreign investors taking charge at German firms. And there were some very strongly worded shareholder resolutions put forward at the AGM.

Ackermann said: “What troubles me in this is not so much that it is partly directed at Deutsche Bank, or at me personally.

“But I also think it is a shame, because it draws attention away from the real problem. Ultimately, this is about something much more important. It’s about the fundamental economic and political stance of our country towards the future.”

In his speech Ackermann added there was “enormous potential” in Germany for private pension planning.

He did not refer to the UK business of Deutsche Asset Management, which is now widely expected to be sold after losing assets and top managers.