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Public banks are a legally defined arm of the banking industry in Germany. The other two branches in the three-pillar German banking system are private banks (such as Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, Dresdner Bank) and co-operative banks (such as Volksbank or Raiffeisen-bank).

The Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe is the most numerous sub-sector with 446 savings banks (of which 7 are independent) and 12 regional direct public insurance groups using the Sparkasse brand, 10 real estate financing banks using the LBS brand and 11 Landesbanken together using 8 separate brands[1].

The regional savings banks associations are statutory bodies, of which the savings banks and their municipal Gewährträger (holders) are statutory members and the independent savings banks are voluntary members.

The Deutscher Sparkassen- und Giroverband (German Savings Banks Association, DSGV) represents the interests of the Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe on a national and international level concerning law and the financial services industry. It also coordinates, promotes and harmonises the interests of Sparkassen.[1]



Map of coverage of Landesbanken

A Landesbank is a head banking institution of the local and regional bases Sparkassen (= saving banks).

There are eight Landesbanken: BayernLB; Nordische Landesbank (NordLB); Bremer Landesbank Kreditanstalt Oldenburg - Girozentrale (Majority owned by Nord/LB); HSH Nordbank; Landesbank Baden-Württemberg (LBBW); Landesbank Berlin (LBB); Landesbank Hessen-Thuringen - Girozentrale (Helaba); Landesbank Saar (SaarLB); WestLB.

The Sachsen LB and the Landesbank Rheinland-Pfalz (LRP) since April 2008 are subsidiarities of the Landesbank Baden-Württemberg (LBBW).

With group combined total assets of EUR 1,624 trillion as of December 2004, the 11 Landesbanken employ some 51,000 staff in 655 offices and branches. [2]

Whilst functioning as "universal banks", and thus operating in all sectors of the financial services market, all are still controlled by State governments and operate as central administration for the Sparkassen within their area.


Sparkasse logo

Sparkasse (pl: Sparkassen) are savings banks in German-speaking countries. All are managed locally, with state level co-operation and marketing managed by the state government controlled Landesbanken and national co-ordination and marketing of the Landesbanken and Sparkassen under the Deutsche Sparkassen und Giroverband (DSGV) and the Sparkassen Finanzgruppe. The majority are owned by local governments (from district to City or State).

There are seven Sparkassen in Northern Germany which are independent of state ownership: Bordesholmer Sparkasse, Spar- und Leihkasse zu Bredstedt, Sparkasse zu Lübeck, Sparkasse Mittelholstein (Schleswig-Holstein); Sparkasse Bremen; Hamburger Sparkasse.

Their total assets of the Sparkassen amount to about €1 trillion.[3].

Sparkasse issued passbooks to depositors. Pictured: Mannheim 1942 passbook or sparbuch

The 446 savings banks operate a network of over 16,000 branches and offices. They provide banking services to the whole population and employ around 261,000 staff. [4]



The first Sparkassen were founded 1778 in Hamburg, 1786 in Oldenburg, 1796 in Kiel, 1801 in Altona und 1808 in Darmstadt, 1817 in Lübeck, 1818 in Berlin and 1821 in Nürnberg. 1818 the Württembergische Spar-Casse was founded in Stuttgart. In the year 1836 there were 300 Sparkassen, 1860: approx. 1,200, 1913: approx. 3,100 Sparkassen.

Joint ventures

Given their organisational similarities, the Landesbanken and Sparkassen often co-operate, own parts of each others business or operate joint ventures. The largest of these operations are the Landesbausparkassen (LBS) and the DekaBank.

The eleven LBS Landesbausparkassen (building societies), with total assets of around EUR 49 bn at the end of 2004, have a total of around 880 branches and almost 9,500 employees.

Four of the eleven are subordinate divisions of Landesbanken (in Frankfurt/Erfurt, Mainz, Munich, and Saarbrücken). The other seven are legally independent institutions (Berlin/Hannover, Bremen, Hamburg, Kiel, Münster/Düsseldorf, Potsdam and Stuttgart).

Their core business is the provision of collective saving with the entitlement to a low-interest building loan. [5]

The DekaBank is a public sector institute owned jointly and equally by the Landesbanken and the DSGV.It employs around 3,300 staff, has total assets of EUR 128 bn and a funds volume of some EUR 135 bn (as of December 2004). [6]

Along with funds-based asset management, private and institutional pensions provision forms an important part of DekaBank business. Another focus is the European single market and ensuring that the savings banks achieve a volume of investment funds business that reflects their strength in the retail banking market.


  1. ^ Staff, Sparkassen, The Deutsche Sparkassen- und Giroverband,, retrieved 2008-09-21  

See also


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