“Europe needs a dynamic Germany! Who, if not Germany, along with France, should play the leading role?” This appeal was not part of the remarkable inaugural address in Berlin by Anshu Jain, the new Co-Chairman of Deutsche Bank – rather it was contained in the manuscript of the first keynote economic policy address by Josef Ackermann, Jain’s predecessor, held in Frankfurt in early 2003. Then as now, Germany was criticised, however, under completely different signs. At the beginning of Ackermann’s tenure, the “German disease” was spreading: Germany’s weak economic growth was regarded as dangerous for Europe and the world economy. “We are no longer considered to be the political and economic powerhouse, but are regarded quasi as the third-generation Buddenbrooks, as ‘the next Japan’”, said Ackermann nearly ten years ago. Back then, however, the financial centre Frankfurt was still a heavyweight.
Today, Germany is once again Europe’s driving force. However, the federal government is under fire for its austerity measures during the euro crisis. In the on-going competition for companies and institutions, junior professionals and experienced experts, managers and scholars, the financial centre Frankfurt is not only competing against London, Paris or New York, but also against Asia’s ambitious metropolitan regions. The city and region needs, now more than ever before, a performance-oriented, dynamic education and research landscape. After all, the intellectual potential is perhaps the most fundamental characteristic of a successful financial centre.
Frankfurt has benefited for many years from its knowledge infrastructure. The metropolis on the Main river is a knowledge hub thanks to the Goethe University and the House of Finance, the University of Applied Sciences Frankfurt and the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management. The University of Mannheim, the WHU-Otto Beisheim School of Management in Koblenz-Vallendar, the European Business School (EBS) and the Wiesbaden University of Applied Sciences all contribute to strengthening the city and region. However, the responsibility of a business school for the location goes beyond merely training highly qualified junior professionals. We see ourselves as a think tank, as a link between theory and practice, as a magnet for high potentials, for experienced managers and renowned scholars. We unite people from different realms, think through issues and problems in an international context and deal with principle questions related to the future.
That is why the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management and its teaching, research, consulting and services always have a reference to business: we open new education and career opportunities for skilled and management professionals with specific university study programmes. Managers from around the world take advantage of our Executive Education Programme in Frankfurt and, increasingly, at company locations in India, China and the aspiring countries in Africa.
We see ourselves as the constructive sparring partner for business in our development of new education programmes and formats in addition to new research projects. We adapt to market developments and demands at an early stage: that is why we have introduced certification courses for financing renewable energy resources and for compliance. We have devised a Master of Risk & Regulation Management together with the Frankfurter Institute of Risk Management and Regulation (FIRM). We also reacted early on to the lessons learned during the financial crisis by establishing the Bachelor of Management, Philosophy & Economics. We are now organising the Finance Futures Lab at the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management – a new think tank in which our professors will work together with scholars from other universities and with representatives from the practice to analyse recent financial and economic crises and derive scenarios for the future from them. One thing appears perfectly clear – something must happen and we must think ahead because future players also want change.
In many discussions, including with young people and students, I sense the desire for clear regulations and, above all, clarity; but also a desire for an ideal banking world in which major and state banks no longer have to admit to billions in shortfalls and questionable transactions, such as happened with the Spanish Bankia, which overstretched itself with unsecured mortgage loans, or the British Barclays, who manipulated the world’s most important commercial interest rate, the Libor, or the US subsidiary of Standard Chartered whose illegal transactions with Iran became public. The financial crisis has long become a crisis of nations, as the world community has been unable to establish confidence in the financial sector since the Lehman collapse. However, confidence in people and institutions is decisive for a functioning financial market. Confidence is also the basis of our numerous projects and initiatives we have been carrying out in developing and threshold countries since 1992. Many people there are denied access to the formal banking and finance sectors. They are too poor. Doing business with them is not profitable for banks. However, these people are receiving access to financial products as part of the development financing, which makes development and education possible for them and their families. We are active in the development and climate financing on all continents as part of the Development Finance Cluster, which Frankfurt represents along with KfW, GIZ, ProCredit and Gopa: nearly 100 experts have the responsibility for consulting and training mandates to establish local banking and financial systems. The portfolio is completed by cooperation with the Université Protestante au Congo (UPC) in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa, where we organise a Master in Microfinance, as well as through the intensifying of Development Finance in the Master of Finance at the Frankfurt campus. This project gives young people the opportunity to combine an interesting job with the goal of sustainably improving the standard of living of the people in the developing countries.
We also use our vast experience for consulting mandates for issues related to energy efficiency and renewable energies, primarily when mobilising investments in developing and threshold countries or developing cost-efficient tools for reducing CO2 emissions. Executive education programmes and certification courses complete our offer. Together with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), we launched the UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance in July 2011. Scholars and consultants dedicate themselves to the financing of renewable energies in research, teaching and consulting. To this end, the Centre works together with financial institutions to develop technical expertise and innovative financing approaches for companies and consumers. It is closely tied to faculty as well as ongoing research and is establishing itself as a think tank.
In light of global competition, it is important to secure and expand Frankfurt’s position as continental Europe’s most important financial centre. The European benchmark for the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management is London, which is renowned for its numerous competing, internationally acknowledged academic organisations, universities and business schools. The London School of Economics, the London Business School, Ashridge and Cass, and their success in respective rankings document the strength of the British capital.
German universities and business schools are only a minor factor in this international education industry. The Hessen state government has launched a trend-setting initiative with its support of the Goethe University and the House of Finance, which promotes and supports companies and patrons in the financial centre. However, greater efforts are required.
I am convinced that a strong economic nation such as Germany and sectors, such as banking and financial, which emphasise innovation and creativity, require a dynamic academic landscape which plays an outstanding role in international competition. The Frankfurt School of Finance & Management is well prepared for such competition. All players in the financial centre of Frankfurt – government, business, associations, foundations, research and education, NGOs – should work together in promoting it and filling it with life.
The author is president of the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management. He studied economics, business education and political sciences. Steffens was a lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences Wilhelmshaven and managed development projects in Togo and Cameroon. Along with other positions, he is president of the Frankfurt Institut für Risikomanagement und Regulierung (FIRM).