You rarely catch banker Heinrich Haasis, 72, enraptured but turn talk to Cuba and the president of the Savings Bank Foundation for International Cooperation lights up. It’s one of the 43 countries interested in Germany’s savings banks model and as Cuba opens up politically and economically, the German Savings Bank Foundation is helping the country transform its banking system.
German savings banks have a simple, robust system converting savers’ deposits into loans to self-employed and local small businesses, putting the welfare of stakeholders ahead of profit. They resemble the savings-and-loans banks in the US but are publicly-owned by municipal governments or federal states, and, rooted in their communities, often sponsoring local festivals and financing hospitals or universities.
Before the financial crisis, such banks seemed a little old fashioned with their 200-year-old business model. Afterwards, for countries fearful of relying on “too big to fail” banks, they suddenly seemed like a good idea.