Diversified catalogue of functions
In accordance with its statutes and in addition to the “promotion of the idea of savings banks and the savings bank sector in general”, the principal function of the “Verband der Freien Sparkassen e.V.” (Association of German Independent Public Savings Banks) lies in promoting and supporting the special interests of its member savings banks. These functions are derived from the history of the origin and the legal status of independent savings banks.
Distinctive features of independent savings banks
German savings banks were first founded as independent savings banks by socially involved private individuals at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries. Later numerous cities and districts founded their own savings banks, so that Germany now has two independent types of savings banks. There are five independent savings banks in Germany today. A public-sector savings bank, Sparkasse Westholstein, is a member of the Association of Independent Savings Banks, since this bank resulted from the merger of an independent savings bank and a public-sector savings bank. The group of savings banks amalgamated in the Association of Independent Savings Banks represents approx. 5 % of the accumulated balance sheet totals of all the savings banks in Germany.
Due to their private status, specific restrictions relating to business strategy laid down in the savings bank laws of the Federal States, for example the regional principle, do not apply for independent savings banks. A few of the independent savings banks nevertheless voluntarily comply with certain regulations and have embedded similar wordings in their statutes.
Despite these differences, independent savings banks are a part of the savings bank organisation in Germany and are members of the DSGV (German Savings Bank Association) since they pursue the same aims which focus on their function and on activities conducted for the good of the general public - even if their organisational basis is different and the form of their statutes is autonomous. Just like local savings banks, they are also “public” savings banks, i.e. savings banks eligible for trust investments which “serve the general public”. In this case, equally for all the savings banks, focusing on activities conducted for the good of the general public is understood to be comprehensively promoting the quality of life of the people in their business regions.
One of the traditional functions of the associations is to promote cross-border cooperation among independent savings banks in Europe. In the meantime 33 independent savings banks from eight European countries and the Swedish association Sparbankernas Riksförbund have become associate member of the Association of Independent Savings Banks. The group of associated members comprises savings banks of various sizes. This enables the Association to offer member savings banks a large platform for discussing and exchanging business interests and issues which are gaining in significance, especially in view of the common European Economic Area.
Since independent savings banks in Europe differ greatly in terms of their legal organisation structure as well as of their strategic business alignment, their business activities generate considerable interest among German member savings banks. The Association of Independent Savings Banks is also a forum for facilitating the establishment and the intensification of cross-border business relationships. This is why the association considers diversification among the member banks in Europe to be an important task, in order to enhance the significance of the savings banks in the European “single market” even more.
Intensive public relations work
The Association of Independent Savings Banks is particularly committed to the interests of its member savings banks when private legal forms mean that assessments and solutions which differ from those of public-sector savings banks are required. The Association is also able to utilise diverse experience made by private member banks thanks to an intensive exchange of ideas and information with member savings banks in other European countries. It represents the opinion of the Association both within the German Savings Bank and Girobank Association and in direct contact with government agencies and the general public.