The reputation of the handshake has suffered greatly over the past year and a half. Did you even forget how to do it? Two men in dark suits seem to want to convince themselves otherwise on this dark Thursday in the Haus der Bayerischen Wirtschaft. For a long time – a little too long – they stand there in the hall, fingers crossed and arms outstretched, look deeply into each other’s eyes and support each other a bit. At the 15th Bavarian Finance Summit, to which the SZ was invited, this seems more necessary than ever. “Corona has put society and the entire industry to the test,” said Ulrike Wolf in his opening speech. The ministerial director of the Ministry of Economic Affairs replaced her boss Hubert Aiwanger at short notice.
But even without the Bavarian Minister of Economics, things are straight away more relaxed than the event’s motto “What’s next?” Why does the financial sector need to reinvent itself ”. For the time of the corona pandemic, the representatives of the banking and insurance sector present made a good report to their companies via the bank. You see yourself well equipped for the future. Barbara Karuth-Cell of the Allianz Board of Directors names the two crucial topics of the first interview: digitization and sustainability. But she also says: “We need to accelerate the transformation even more than we have done so far.”
It has already worked well with a new system that is to be used in Africa and that employees have developed purely digitally in just eight months during the pandemic. “With a global team that have never met, who have never met,” says Karuth-Zell. The manager isn’t the only one who thinks things have gone pretty well so far. The vice-president of the German Federal Bank Claudia Maria Buch thinks she knows why: “The real economic crisis did not take place in the banking and financial sector like that.
Hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses either disappeared from the market during the Corona period or had to be kept alive with bridging aids, while the big banks and insurance companies only need to send their employees to the office. at home and have no problem with a global crisis – is it really that easy?
If you can believe the participants in the first round of discussions today, yes – at least if you’ve been pushing digitization for a long time. “Even before the pandemic, we had 75% of our employees in the home office two days a week,” says Alexander Vollert. The productivity remained the same during Corona, the disease rate even decreased. Much like Axa’s CEO, his colleague Doris Höpke from Munich Re also sees the pandemic as a magnifying glass for digitization – and an opportunity. “Over time, we have come to realize that much more is possible in the digital world than you previously thought.” Ingrid Hengster, KfW board member, speaks effusively that the infrastructure that had been previously built could have been “excellent”. Digital organization was new territory on this scale, but it worked “perfectly”. With all the exuberance, it would have been very interesting to hear how a simple employee with no extra desk within her walls and with two children who needed to be taken care of with homework at the same time would describe her experiences of the past few months.
“There will be no more permanent jobs.”
And there is another point in the industry that everyone agrees on: at least a few days a week, employees should definitely return to the office in the future. “Wherever friction and exchange are just necessary, personal interaction is necessary, and we have also sharpened awareness of this,” says Doris Höpke. Ingrid Hengster from Allianz thinks that work also involves meeting and exchanging ideas on site. She can imagine what a modern office could look like: “There will be no more fixed positions. You register in the morning and a place is allocated to you. In this case, the economic benefit to the company would be obvious – how well this would be perceived by the employees is another matter.
In subsequent financial summit discussions, too, optimism clearly prevails; this goes for dealing with the corona pandemic as well as looking to the future. A careful inventory of the current situation and the question of where the business problems of insurance companies and banks lie was once not a problem that day. Bundesbank economics professor Claudia Buch stressed at the very beginning: The next crisis is coming, the only question is when, where and how.