Public Service Bank

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BfG branch in Kieler Holstenstrasse (1972)

The Bank für Gemeinwirtschaft (BfG) , which emerged from the German Gemeinwirtschaftsbanken, was a credit institute that was merged into SEB AG in 2000 . The private customer business has been carried out by Santander Consumer Bank (part of the Spanish Banco Santander Group) since 2011 .


As social economy banks in were Germany , the banks referred that after the Second World War by the trade unions in connection with the large shopping company German Consumvereine (GEG), the economic center of the consumer cooperative movement , were established. They continued the tradition of the smaller trade union banks and banking institutions of the consumer cooperative movement that existed in the twenties , as well as the bank for workers, employees and civil servants .

After the Second World War, the occupying powers did not allow a nationwide credit institute. The GEG and the trade unions (the GEG held a stake in the box with 25.06% , as did the DGB with 25.14%. The remaining 49.8% held individual trade unions) therefore founded six regional credit institutions between 1949 and 1950, each with an initial capital of one Million DM:

founding Surname Seat
August 26, 1949 Bank for Economy and Labor AG Munich
September 17, 1949 Bank for Community Economy North Rhine-Westphalia AG Dusseldorf
September 24, 1949 Bank for Community Economy AG Hamburg
January 28, 1950 Bank für Gemeinwirtschaft AG Frankfurt / Main Frankfurt am Main
May 15, 1950 Lower Saxony Bank for Economy and Labor AG Hanover
22nd August 1950 Bank for Economy and Labor AG Stuttgart
October 16, 1953 Bank for Economy and Labor AG Berlin

The Bank für Wirtschaft und Arbeit AG in Berlin was founded in 1953 as a subsidiary of the trade unions and the common business banks (mainly the Munich Bank) with only minor participation by the consumer cooperatives.

The consumer cooperatives did not take part in the capital increases of all banks in the following years. As a result, their share fell steadily.

A few years after the merger, the BfG had become an almost pure trade union bank. On April 1, 1965, the DGB was involved with 21%, the individual trade unions with 74.696% (of which IG Metall with 24.5% and IG Mining and Energy with 22%) and the consumer cooperatives with only 4.22%. The missing 0.084% was held by BAWAG , with which the BfG had entered into a cross-shareholding .

In 1963 the Berlin “Bank for Economy and Labor” became a branch of the BfG.

On December 2, 1958, after the occupying powers' ban on centralization came to an end, the banks in the Federal Republic of Germany merged to form the Bank für Gemeinwirtschaft , headquartered in Frankfurt and with a share capital of DM 60 million. The first chairman of the board was Walter Hesselbach , who held this position until 1977.

The first years were characterized by strong growth. In addition to the basic effect of the start-up, the booming economy of the economic boom was the main reason for growth.

year Balance sheet number Equity insoles Loans Employee
1950 133.1 million DM 5.9 million DM 116.6 million DM 59.7 million DM 1400
1958 2,102.8 million DM 58.5 million DM 1,456.7 million DM 1,019.1 million DM 2000
1964 4,379.6 million DM 120 million DM 2,945.9 million DM 2,337.7 million DM 3170

The bank was also showing profits at the time, paying a dividend of 6% from 1952 to 1959 and 10% thereafter.

The bank built up an extensive network of subsidiaries and holdings. In the spring of 1964, the bank acquired 17% of the shares in Badenia and took a 12% stake in ADIG Allgemeine Deutsche Investment-Gesellschaft . In 1963 50% of the shares in the Dutch trade union bank "NV Hollandsche Koopmansbank" in Amsterdam and a 25% stake in the "International Cooperative Bank" in Basel as an international association of trade union banks were acquired.

In 1974 the holding company for common economy was founded and became the main shareholder.

In 1987 the Aachen and Munich holding company took over the majority of the shares.

In 1991 the bank changed its name to BfG Bank AG , whereby the three letters are no longer an abbreviation, but simply represent a name.

In 1993, Crédit Lyonnais , Paris , took over the majority of the shares.

In 2000 the Swedish financial group Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB) acquired 100% of the shares .

In 2001 the BfG AG changed its name to SEB AG and thus lost its independent market presence.

In 2011 the Spanish Banco Santander took over the German private customer business and the branch network of SEB-Bank. It now operates under the Santander Bank branch of Santander Consumer Bank AG (Germany) .


In 1965, the BfG founded the Bank für Sparanlagen und Vermögensbildung AG (BSV) by renaming the Kreditbank Hagen GmbH. As a special credit institution, this bank was intended to enable employees to invest the capital-building benefits that were newly introduced at the time . As early as 1969, the product range was expanded to include building loans and in 1975 to installment loans. The bank worked without branches, making it the first direct bank in Germany. In 1981 BfG was the majority shareholder in BSV, Frankfurt am Main, with 51 percent. After the shares were sold by the BfG and DGAG, the bank changed its name several times and is now active on the market under the name ING-DiBa .

Deutsche Handelsbank

At the end of 1990 the BfG acquired a 2/3 stake in the Deutsche Handelsbank from the Treuhandanstalt for 225.28 million marks. In 2001 the Deutsche Handelsbank was merged with the BfG.

Business policy

Public economy

The business policy of the Bank für Gemeinwirtschaft was determined by the principle of the community economy . The BfG should not only be the house bank of the trade unions and the consumer cooperative movement, but also prove that a bank could be operated successfully in the public interest even without private pursuit of profit.

For a long time, the BfG was regarded as a bank for little people and was known as the “pearl” of trade union companies until the 1980s because of the profits it made. At the beginning of the 1980s it was on the verge of replacing Commerzbank as the third largest credit institution in Germany. She then suffered from management errors and not least from the scandal surrounding the Neue Heimat , which damaged the image of all trade union companies. Above all, a risky credit policy (especially loans to countries in the Third World and the former Eastern Bloc ) led to losses that threatened the existence of the country. The bank slipped into negative numbers in the mid-1980s, with only about a dozen of around 75 branches operating at a profit.

The BfG shared the fate of the other public service companies (e.g. Neue Heimat, co op AG , AHBR and most recently BAWAG in Austria): When they got into a crisis due to mismanagement, these companies cost the unions a lot of money and were only able to do so as “normal” “, Profit-oriented companies exist in the market.


After no buyer for a minority stake had been found for a long time, BGAG sold a majority of shares (50% plus one share) to Aachener und Münchener Beteiligungsgesellschaft (AM).

The strategic goal of AM was an all-finance business policy: the sale of banking products and insurance under one roof.

In 1991 the bank suffered heavy losses, particularly in the area of ​​foreign finance in the east, particularly Poland. As a result, there were mass layoffs, the number of employees and branches was reduced by a quarter under CEO Paul Wieandt . Three quarters of the executives had to leave the house. Saying goodbye to the idea of ​​the common economy was a culture shock. The new corporate principles began with the sentence “We are a profit-oriented company”. What was taken for granted for other companies was a paradigm shift for the BfG .

Despite these drastic cost-saving measures, the Aachen and Munich investment company did not succeed in restructuring. The business policy was geared towards wealthier customers, but this contradicted the image of the bank and these customer groups could not be won. Attempts to sell insurance products in a bank were also unsuccessful. The BfG was sold to foreign banks as a German subsidiary. In 1992, Crédit Lyonnais (CL) acquired the majority of the shares. The strategic goal was the creation of a pan-European bank. At the same time, however, the CL got into a serious crisis. The rescue of the CL was only possible with the help of massive support from the French state. This state subsidy was only approved by the EU under certain conditions. One of these conditions was the sale of at least half of the foreign subsidiaries. Since the BfG alone made up half of the foreign assets, it was sold to the Skandinaviska Enskilda banks in 2000 .

The BfG (or its successor SEB) developed various products that later became the standard offer of other banks. This included the savings bond with rising interest rates over the years as a means of long-term customer loyalty, the account including all services at a monthly standard price and the introduction of the account with a free credit card. With the “Luxinvest Securarent” (today “SEB Luxinvest ÖkoRent”), BfG launched one of the first German “eco” funds in 1989 .

Advertising and marketing

In the 1990s, the BfG advertised in a well-known campaign under the slogan “The Man · The Life · The Bank”.



BfG high-rise in Frankfurt am Main
The Trianon building in Frankfurt am Main

The BfG wrote the history of the skyscraper in Frankfurt . On March 20, 1964, the bank opened its new headquarters on Mainzer Landstrasse in Frankfurt. Willy Brandt was the guest of honor at the opening . The building complex should not keep pace with the bank's growth. In 1977 the BfG high-rise (today's Eurotower, 1998-2014 the seat of the European Central Bank ) was moved into. The building had its own underground station in the basement and a public shopping mall on the ground floor. The floor area of ​​78,000 m² was adapted to the bank's growth hopes. However, these did not materialize and the bank had to sublet parts of the building in the 1980s. With the bank's increasing crisis, both the BfG high-rise and the old headquarters were sold to investors. The buyers built the Trianon skyscraper on the site of the old headquarters on Mainzer Landstrasse . In 1993 the BfG moved into this high-rise building as a tenant. When it was taken over by SEB, the bank moved to its current, unrepresentative headquarters on Ulmenstrasse.

Training center

In the 1960s and 1970s, the major Frankfurt banks set up training centers in the Taunus , in order to be able to train and further educate their employees near the banking city of Frankfurt am Main, but in the countryside, undisturbed . The Commerzbank created the "Collegium Glashütten" in Oberems , the Dresdner Bank a training center in Königstein im Taunus , the Deutsche Bank the Franz Heinrich Ulrich House in Kronberg im Taunus and in 1984 the Bank für Gemeinwirtschaft one in Oberursel .

At the end of the 1950s, the BfG had used the rooms of what was then the DGB Federal School (Fritz Tarnow School) in Oberursel for employee training. From 1966 the Emmershausen mill served the same purpose. As the bank grew, so did the need for training. The deciding factor for the selection was the convenient location directly on Hohemarkstrasse and the U3 stop “Kupferhammer”. The training center, which enables 2,500 training courses per year (the bank had around 7,500 employees in 1984) was built on the site of a former leather factory on over 16,000 square meters in the upper Urselbach . The three-story building made of red bricks was built by Neue Heimat Städtebau GmbH. Construction and land cost around twenty million marks.

Foreign public service banks

The public service banks also included BAWAG , Vienna and the cooperative central bank , Basel.



Board members

Chairman of the Supervisory Board:


  • Wilhelm Fischer: 60 years versus 60 years of service to consumers. 1894-1954. Festschrift Hamburg 1954
  • Achim von Loesch : The public enterprise of the German trade unions. Cologne 1979
  • Kurt Hirche: The economic enterprises of the trade unions, 1966, page 103–177
  • Rolf W. Nagel: The transformation of the Bank für Gemeinwirtschaft (BfG) as a morphological-typological problem: the emergence and development of a credit institution; Volume 32 of writings on the cooperative system and public economy, 1992, ISBN 3-428-07539-0 , online
  • Armin Peter: Bank für Gemeinwirtschaft, in the 2009 conference report on the history of the cooperative, published by the Heinrich Kaufmann Foundation, Norderstedt 2016, pp. 34–40, ISBN 978-3-7412-0742-6

Individual evidence

  1. Article in Handelsblatt on the takeover of the SEB private customer business by Santander Bank (July 12, 2010)
  2. With the subway to the education center; in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, February 18, 1984, p. 43