Hamburger Sparkasse

My visit to Hamburger Sparkasse, Germany's largest savings bank with over DM 54 billion in assets and 6,400 employees is pretty much a joke. There are 594 savings banks in Germany and Hamburger Sparkasse (Haspa), founded in 1827, is one of the very few which are private-which maybe explains the reception or lack of reception received.

Headquarters is a stone's throw directly behind Hamburg's impressive Rathaus (city hall). Built in 1908, renovated in 1955 and again in 1994-1997, the four story structure looks like a brand new building. Only the large rotunda in the lobby lets one know there's a history to the place.

Haspa operates over 200 branches in the Hamburg area and this is the main branch. I walk over to a man sitting behind an information booth and though he's a nice enough man, he doesn't speak English and I, German. He ends up walking me upstairs to a woman. I explain to the woman (who I later find out is CEO Karl-Joachim Dreyer's secretary) who I am and what I do. She knows nothing about my letter and says it wouldn't be possible to have anyone talk to me today. I leave her news clippings about my trek and the promise to return tomorrow.

The next day I meet with Jorg Weber from the company's press office in the bank public lobby. My less-than-insightful visit is over in about seven minutes. My request to see the CEO's office and boardroom is met with a quick "no". "Why not", I ask. "We don't do that", is the answer. Boy, that seems odd especially since the day before I was up on the executive's floor talking to the CEO's secretary.

Over 300 employees work in the building. Parking in downtown Hamburg is tight so only senior management get parking spots. Smoking is allowed in the building and employees receive discounts on company financial products. Haspa is the principal bank for over 50% of Hamburg's residents.