( FT )- Alistair Hicks is one of Deutsche Bank's more unconventional employees. In a world where the bottom line is the only benchmark that really matters, Mr Hicks has an unusual brief.
As Deutsche's art adviser, he deals in aesthetics rather than profits, overseeing the world's biggest corporate art collection at the bank's London offices near Liverpool Street.
Although the prints and paintings that decorate the bank's walls are designed to inspire staff and attract clients, his department is one of a tiny number that is not primarily judged on the amount of money it makes.
Mr Hicks, who has worked for the bank for 10 years, says: "I do feel a little out of place sometimes. My job is to stimulate and spark debate ... it is not just about making money, although it is also about business too.
"The arts department has to fight for its budget every year. The works on the walls are there to impress clients and create a good work environment. It is about presenting the bank's image as a sophisticated and world class business. We want to present ourselves as a progressive bank in touch with the modern world - that is reflected in the collection."
Its collection is contemporary, dating back to 1945, and includes some house-hold names, such as Damien Hirst and Francis Bacon - the latter is one of Mr Hicks' favourites because of his influence on modern British art - as well as some lesser-known home-grown artists.
"This approach is a lot different to 20 years ago, when many banks would display Victorian landscape and portrait paintings. It was about respectability. They wanted to show their clients and staff they were part of the establishment," he says.
"Today Deutsche wants to stimulate, provoke and prompt discussion, show that it is part of the modern world. In London, this is particularly important as it is an international centre in a much more adventurous climate. The British are much more adventurous in what they look for in art today."
This kind of thinking is behind one of the biggest exhibits, which greets the eye on entering the main reception of the bank's City headquarters at London Wall. The 30m-long canvas by James Rosenquist , the US pop artist, fuses popular images in an abstract way, drawing inspiration from Picasso's famous painting depicting the Nazi bombing of Guernica during the Spanish civil war.
"This canvas has a subversive element, questioning what happened. It is meant to be stimulating, a talking point. We hope it engages people and makes them think," Mr Hicks says.
But he adds: "We do have to think carefully about what we buy. It's not like going to a museum. We don't want to hang prints that might put people off their job or be interpreted as ... offensive. Certainly since 1999 interest from people at the bank has risen tenfold. I think that shows we are doing our job and engaging the staff, helping them get out of the ivory tower."