»Savings banks are in pole position when it comes to sustainability«

An interview with Karolin Schriever, Executive Member of the Board at the DSGV.

Karolin Schriever

Energy shortages, inflation, looming recession: the challenges have not diminished in 2022 and threaten to displace the real issue of sustainable transformation. In this interview, Karolin Schriever comments on her own ambitions and the role of Savings Banks in the conflicting priorities of sustainability and regulation.

Ms Schriever, you moved from KPMG to the management board of the DSGV in September 2022. What are your ambitions and goals?

I am particularly keen to make my contribution to the future of the Savings Banks. The question is: What course do we have to set now so that in ten years’ time we will still be just as relevant for our customers, the real economy and society as we are today?

I am convinced that the Savings Banks’ idea holds the key to this. Even during my many years as an auditor, I always felt connected to the Savings Banks Finance Group and its values. I started my professional life at Sparkasse Werl, as a traditional bank employee. So my move to the management board of the DSGV also felt like I was »coming home«.

We are in a time of multiple crises that bring with them a multitude of challenges. What does this mean for the DSGV and the institutions of the Savings Banks Finance Group?

The many crisis-related developments of the past years and also Russia's terrible war of aggression against Ukraine show that there is unfortunately no guarantee of security, peace and economic stability. This does not happen automatically; constant effort is needed to maintain them. The Savings Banks Finance Group has contributed a great deal in this regard. To give just two examples: During the Corona pandemic we arranged the majority of KfW aid loans to self-employed persons and to small and medium-sized enterprises. And in the months after the outbreak of the war, we unbureaucratically opened hundreds of thousands of accounts for refugees from Ukraine.

Possible energy shortages, inflation with the threat of recession, price and interest rate increases: given the uncertainties involved, it is particularly difficult for people to manage the change to sustainable economic activity that is actually necessary - because it also requires enormous financial resources and investments. How do the Savings Banks and their alliance partners support both their SME and private customers in this transformation process?

The Savings Banks Finance Group is the largest economic force in the German financial sector. With this role and market position we have an obligation to take responsibility. For this reason, we are not just a provider of funds for our customers, but also an advisor on the path to greater sustainability.

In the case of private customers, for example, there is the important issue of energy-efficient renovation, for which we have developed a complete package ranging from energy analysis to financing and the procurement of tradesmen.

Many of our medium-sized corporate clients are concerned with how to turn some »brown« business models into »green« ones. Here, too, we provide advice. For example, in evaluating their activities along the three ESG criteria – environment, social and corporate governance.

Besides regulation, the issue of sustainability is particularly close to your heart. Why is sustainability so crucial for the Savings Banks Finance Group and why are Savings Banks in particular so predestined for it?

Savings Banks are in pole position when it comes to sustainability. Savings Banks have a corporate concept designed for the long-term and for the preservation of substance, a legal structure similar to that of a foundation – and democratic legitimacy.

Regulation is becoming increasingly fragmented, bureaucracy is steadily increasing instead of decreasing: What could »smart« regulation look like and how can supervision and politics support it?

The cases of bank failures in the USA have shown one thing very clearly: Proportionate, appropriate regulation cannot be achieved through blind exceptions to capital adequacy and liquidity requirements. The Savings Banks Finance Group has never called for anything like that.

The Basel III supervisory regime is applied by every institution in the European Union, large or small. Unfortunately, the supervisory authorities are also pursuing the idea that the banking world is always the same everywhere. In reality, however, small institutions in particular are disadvantaged by the increasing fixed costs of regulation. It is important that we finally move away from »too big to fail« 15 years after the Lehman bankruptcy. However, small and medium-sized institutions must not be deprived of breathing space by excessive requirements. That is why we strongly advocate in Brussels, Paris and Frankfurt to continue along the path of reducing redundancies and integrating the reporting system.

Karolin Schriever
Karolin Schriever has been part of the three-member DSGV Executive Board since September 2022, succeeding Dr. Karl-Peter Schackmann-Fallis. The regulatory expert is responsible for Division A - Economics, Policy and Bank Management.
»With our role and market position we have an obligation to take responsibility.«
Karolin Schriever
Executive Member of the Board at DSGV

How do you see the future of the Savings Banks? How should they best position themselves to continue to have sufficient relevance in our society in the future?

I see a future with many opportunities for the Savings Banks. Savings Banks are sustainability – in the economic, ecological and social sense. If the Savings Banks consistently follow this path of sustainability, they will actually increase their relevance. Of course, history alone does not legitimise the future. The next 250 years of the Savings Banks will be shaped in the same way as the last 250 years: through constant change.