Group of European Pensioners from Savings Banks and Financial Institutions


Index of documents > Euromeetings Magazine > Euromeetings Number 5

The Euromeeting of Retired Staff and Pensioners from the European Savings Banks in Platja d’Aro was a special experience for me, as an Eastern German and a Savings Bank employee during 51 years. Specially, because those who were behind the 'Iron curtain' were not allowed to have any contact with the Savings Banks from West Europe, from which we were isolated. Today we celebrate the 10th anniversary of our entrance in the German family of Savings Banks at the same time we enter the European Group. However, the Euromeeting meant a new experience for me and my companions from East Germany.


When the division of Europe in two blocks started in 1945, the 310 Savings Banks of East Germany were almost 100 years old, so they were able to keep working for their clients. In 1990, due to some mergers which took place, the number of Savings Banks descended to 196, with 3,025 branches for a population of 17 million inhabitants. The work done by the Savings Banks was to follow established plans by the central government, and all which was necessary to work was rationed according to those plans, from paper sheets to the number of employees and salaries. The Savings Banks were not very much valued from a political point of view, because they did not belong to the productive sectors, and wages and equipment were below the economical average. In spite of all this, and with their 18,000 employees, 95% of which were women, they were able to achieve a market share of near 25% of the population and more than 50% of the small business. The acknowledgement by the citizens and their development have proved this: we cannot do without the Savings Banks when giving economical coverage to the wide social strata, regardless of the current social systems.


After the frontiers were opened in 1989, the Savings Banks from East and West Germany contacted immediately, and they discovered the big differences in equipment, in diversity of financial products and in personnel availability. Western associates helped their Eastern companions contributing material and personnel. Their reasons were, in the first place, to show some solidarity after the long years of common history of the Savings Banks and, secondly, due to the political-economical situation, to warn of the possibility that, in case the Savings Banks from East Germany were put out to tender at the mercy of the great Western banks, the former would not play a role in the East anymore, and that would be detrimental to all the German Savings Banks. Suddenly, the law of East Germany was substituted by the different and still unknown law of the West. It was necessary to create new Management Boards in the Savings Banks, with people from the West with the savoir faire of the market economy, and people from the East who knew the place. Many colleagues from the Western Savings Banks started to succeed in the East. After all, the Savings Banks, after these 10 years, still keep better market shares, in their traditional activity areas, than those of similar institutions from West Germany, and all this because of the great motivation of the colleagues from the East and the help coming from the West.


And what happened to the Savings Banks pensioners?


Behind the Wall there has always been a friendly atmosphere among the colleagues, open and loyal, from the Savings Banks. Our colleagues from the West still get surprised today when they see the old Eastern colleagues greet each other with such cordiality. Moreover, it was always taken for granted that the Savings Banks would organise regular meetings for their retired staff who would be able to use all their infrastructure, like apartments where they could spend their holidays.


Meanwhile, the pension policy from West Germany is also applied in East Germany. This means that pensions depend mostly on the amount earned throughout the working life, which creates big differences in pension levels between the Western colleagues, who were well paid in that moment and had work insurances, and the pensioners from the Eastern Savings Banks, whose salary was below average. These difference will last for a long time for all those who will retire in the next years, because they only have the pension complement during a few years. Moreover, the Eastern pensions represent, with the same income, only 87% of the Western pensions. And surely we will need 10 or 20 years more to achieve the same standard of living. However, most pensioners from the Eastern Savings Banks are relatively happy, because they have benefitted from the reform that has been done. It has been acknowledged that the old people who lived in East Germany in 1945 were unlucky to be in the wrong side of the frontier line, and they had to live with the hard consequences. That is why pensioners from the Savings Banks are even happier for being able to live again in a Europe without a Wall.


And thus I want to share the greeting and gratitude words already expressed by Mrs. Rebers, as the representative of the German participants, in former publications, and I wish we will be healthy to celebrate the next meetings.



Hans-Georg Günther