Deutsche Bank Office for Negotiation: An interview with Felix Miller, VP Deal Expert

Claudia: Felix, great to see you, I am excited to sit down with a fellow negotiation professional and share experiences(1)!

Felix: Same here, always a treat to see you!

Claudia: You are VP Deal Expert and one of the co-founders of Deutsche Bank’s Office for Negotiation. I love this because it is so unique to have a dedicated negotiation department in a company like this, and it really shows the immense leverage negotiation skills can give. Can you tell me a bit more about how this department came about and what you do?

Felix: For decades, most people have perceived negotiation as something we only need at a big conference table or in sales or procurement. However, experience and research clearly show that negotiation is one of the most powerful and omnipresent skills we need to use in our daily lives and business dealings. Our Office for Negotiation is a central one-stop-shop offering negotiation excellence as a service throughout the bank.

Claudia:Negotiation as a Service“, I love that description because it shows the time you free up on other people’s plates and the specialization, expertise and value you can bring to the table as the expert who does JUST THIS.

Speaking about value, I love the motto you have, “Going Northeast”. Where does it come from?

Felix: The northeast direction in our logo’s design stands for the bank’s vision of moving forward and achieving robust (the square around the line) success in the global financial landscape. In negotiation, moving ‘northeast’ stands for achieving “win-win” results. I.e. a value-add result where both sides maximize their outcome in a way that no party could have gotten more without taking some from the other and both sides meet or exceed all their interests.

Claudia: The Pareto-optimal negotiation result! With negotiation being such a key future skill, very practically speaking, what impact do you see these skills having in a big business environment like Deutsche?

Felix: Many people I met and worked with in a variety of contexts next to banking such as Startups, NGOs & community leaders perceive negotiation as bargaining or splitting value. Few initially see it as a skill of leadership, and potentially THE skill that allows us to have other people say ‘yes’ to us whenever we need them to do so. If we can lead another party from ‘no’ to ‘yes’ – this is leadership first and foremost. And to lead others, we need to learn to lead ourselves, too.

Negotiation skills help you in areas you would not expect. How do I unite my deal team & internal stakeholders behind a shared vision, define rules of collaboration and engagement, and make sure everyone contributes in the best possible way? How do I create substantially enough value to be distributed amongst deal parties so their incentive to say yes to us surpasses transaction costs to win their individual buy-ins? How do I deal with emotions, mine & others? How do I employ the power of process and relationship management while optimising my substantial outcome in a wise and sustainable way?

Making negotiation a central skill of our lives allows us to improve our leadership skills, helps us get more in life and most importantly, allows us to resolve conflicts together – no matter the subject. So the impact on the business is not only financial but can also be seen on a very human and personal level.

Claudia: Oh, I agree! There is so much more than meets the eye when it comes to great negotiators. So that is one advantage your role has over mine. As an outside trainer, consultant or shadow negotiator I help create value and strategy, but as an in-house function, you can create a lasting impact and change on the people themselves. I envy that (even though you are taking my job :D)

Felix: The pie is probably way larger than the sum of its perceived parts! 🙂

Claudia: For sure! I know you do internal consulting, but also training. What are some things that you notice people find easier after having come through your training?

Felix: Most describe a mindset shift away from “winning” (which is a highly abstract concept unless we define what it means for us) towards collaborative problem-solving; the stage in which the magic happens when we start creating trust, value & long-lasting relationships.

Claudia: In a nutshell, what are some of the business benefits that the increased negotiation capacity of individuals and an in-house team can bring?

Felix: Less transaction cost, less intra-team conflict, higher substantial outcomes, more trust and more overall collaboration both internally & externally.

Claudia: What have you personally found most enjoyable or challenging?

Felix: Being an intrapreneur is different from my former experiences as an entrepreneur but also very exciting. I enjoy working with global teams and being exposed to so many views & cultures daily while having the chance to build & work in one of Germany’s most iconic companies. Also, the size and complexity of deals here are quite high, which is a valuable and motivating experience.

Claudia: Where do you personally benefit most from the skills you are teaching?

Felix: I recently read that the human brain learns best when we explain or teach to others. So every time I get to teach our colleagues, I am constantly learning more myself, which is another nice win-win outcome as well.

Claudia: I feel the same! Thanks for taking the time Felix and I hope, I never see you on the other side of a deal! 😉

Felix: Haha same, but if so, I am sure we would “Go Northeast” together!


(1) Views expressed are purely personal and do not represent Deutsche Bank.

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