17. April 2020

Dear banks, wake up!


The good news first: they still exist, the banks, which help unbureaucratically and quickly. Banks that even call their customers, offer support to make use of all possibilities and actually help the small businesses. We know this from our clients. The bad news is that these banks are the exception. Dear banks, wake up! A comment by Johannes Dähnert.

My worst fears are coming true: Unwillingness, ignorance, incompetence

My worst fears are coming true. Federal and state governments have opened the money floodgates. But unwillingness, ignorance and incompetence are turning banks into a bottleneck. This turns many banks into players who are not even able to respond to the existential demands of our clients.

Unwillingness: We hear sentences like “we’re not getting a decision from the board this week.”

Ignorance: Although KfW internally exempts the house banks from liability of up to 90 percent, clerks demand customary bank securities for the entire loan amount. “Because otherwise we lose our indemnity.”

Incompetence: “We can’t process your application, now it’s the craftsmen’s turn.”

The policy of overregulation is taking its revenge. How do you expect motivation to occur in such cases?

Now the policy of overregulation, which has created a culture of fear, is taking its revenge. For years it was better for bank employees to prevent a deal than to take the slightest risk.

Now it is also taking its revenge that employees are no longer seen as human capital and embodied business cards of credit institutions. They have become a pool of costs in need of reduction. Digitalisation has speed up this process. How do you expect motivation to occur in such cases?

Bank board members: Leadership is required now!

It is now up to politicians and the management of the banks! That is why banks must be released from their rigid regulatory framework, at least for a short time and for aid loans during the Corona crisis by politicians. But then they have to take the plunge!

Management boards must urgently dissolve the obstructive position of their employees. Otherwise there will soon be only a few small businesses left that need banks! This applies to the commercial banks, but especially to the savings and cooperative banks, which are now called upon to fulfil their economic mission.

The existentially threatened customers will thank them for it. Or they will reconsider where they will get their banking services done in the future: At any online bank – which is always able to offer their services a bit cheaper – or the house bank.

Two positive examples at the end

I hope that the examples of Sparkasse KölnBonn and Kreissparkasse Düsseldorf will set a precedent. To my knowledge, the Cologne-based bank is the only credit institution in the country that not only provides a well-functioning crisis liquidity calculator, but also makes it available.

Based on the assumptions of the crisis calculator, the Cologne-based bank even offers to prefinance KfW aid in full and at its own risk. Kreissparkasse Düsseldorf has also proved to be similarly constructive, pragmatic and helpful to our clients. Its employees gave a loan commitment within 48 hours. This is how the unbureaucratic and quick help promised by politicians looks in practice!

That is the mentality we need all in this crisis. Dear banks, wake up!

Johannes Dähnert

CSO, CCO, CHRO, Partner, Rechtsanwalt, Fachanwalt für Handels- und Gesellschaftsrecht


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