Sparkasse association chief Grandke is retiring

Er has as much momentum as ever. Once Gerhard Grandke starts, he covers long, thoughtful tours, from local to state politics, from the savings banks to the European Central Bank, from Germany to France. Gerhard Grandke, 67 years old and only until the end of this month managing president of the Sparkassen- und Giroverband Hessen-Thüringen, is still in his element. Nothing can be imagined less than just this: that he will be retired in the new year.

Manfred Koehler

Deputy head of the regional section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and editor-in-chief of the business magazine Metropol.

It won’t be right either. With friends of the same age he wants to set up a blog in the future, write about politics, about the financial center – welcome to the club. But of course someone with as much verve as Grandke can only work out between soup and dessert at lunchtime. So what else? There are many offers, he oracles. He looks at everything. One will see.

No wonder that some organizations are currently hoping that Grandke will get involved with them in the New Year and for a long time afterwards. Because he brings something with him that only a few can throw into the balance: experience in politics on the one hand and in business on the other. Much is called for it, but only a few can show it. Grandke’s résumé, however, if you skip the beginnings at Bildungswerk des DGB and Fraport, it is characterized by two large, long-lasting posts: From 1990 to 2006 he held a leading position in the Offenbach city administration, the first three years of which as Chamberlain, from 1993 as Lord Mayor.

Offenbach advanced

From 2009 onwards he was President of the regional savings bank association. In between, in the résumé it seems like a transition phase from one position to the other, he was still head of OFB, the real estate project developer of Landesbank Hessen-Thüringen.

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Grandke looks back confidently on the two most important offices, that of the head of the city as well as that of the association president; he brought Offenbach forward, the current city government is still reaping the fruits that it sowed, which is evident from the increasing population, although the neighboring city of Frankfurt is still “in a catching up situation”, as Grandke put it. Even if he is still for a regional district – Offenbach has benefited from the competition between the cities.

Turbulent years at the head of the Savings Banks Association

The years at the head of the Sparkassenverband Hessen-Thüringen were turbulent. As managing president, Grandke was nowhere near as public as he was at the head of Offenbach, but the office should not be underestimated. The association not only speaks for the 49 savings banks in the two federal states and checks their books, it is also the most important shareholder in Landesbank Hessen-Thüringen with 69 percent. He also holds 33 percent in Sparkassen-Versicherung in Stuttgart and eleven percent in Deka-Bank, the savings banks’ fund provider. The Hessian-Thuringian Association, and with it its boss, is an important player in the extensive and ramified network of public-law banking.

The years since 2009 have never been normal, the financial crisis of 2008 protruded well into Grandke’s tenure, together with the board members of the Landesbank they grabbed the opportunity and secured the remnants of West LB. For a while it looked as if the consolidation process among the Landesbanken would continue, but even at the end of his twelve and a half years as association president, Grandke only had to look to the future in this regard.

He still believes it would be right if there were only one central institute at the top of the savings bank organization; he is also certain that it will come to this one day. But when the time comes, he would rather not commit himself to that. The ownership structures of the remaining Landesbanken are too complicated and the regional interests too different. The Frankfurt view that the Landesbank Hessen-Thüringen would inevitably have to be the nucleus of a central institution because it is located in Germany’s only financial center that deserves this name is not necessarily shared in Stuttgart or even in Munich.

Offenbach always remained loyal

The outgoing association president swings with pride when he comes up with the fact that the Landesbank has come through the economic shifts well. The orchestration of the Board of Management has long been “risk averse”, and after difficult times in the seventies, caution is the top priority at the Landesbank. Even if the consolidation process at the Landesbanken did not come to a conclusion during his term of office and nothing came of a merger between Helaba and Deka-Bank: When the going gets tough, the Sparkassen family stick together, says Grandke, they always have Proven ability to act, and in general the savings banks in Germany “always delivered”, they stood by the side of the middle class, made a contribution to equal living conditions in town and country as part of public services.

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The longtime Social Democrat could certainly have become even more, Prime Minister perhaps or even higher, he was in talks as the top candidate of the SPD in state elections, has decided against it, he does not quarrel with it. Offenbach has always remained loyal to Grandke, where he first bought one and now a second orchard. It is still difficult to imagine that a thoroughbred politician, a thoroughbred manager like he would spend the next few years cutting trees on a ladder. Quite a few will be happy to hear from him or read something from Gerhard Grandke in the future.

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