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by Bernhard Bomke, Euro on Sunday
Dhe word sustainability has one thing in particular: a lasting aftertaste. This has to do with the fact that the term can on the one hand stand for serious issues that are: Environment (protection), social standards and a type of corporate management that is geared towards the long term. The Federal Government understands “sustainability” to mean, among other things, this: “Every generation must solve its tasks and must not allow future generations to do so.” In times of record debts to deal with the Corona crisis, one sentence to take care of.
On the other hand, “sustainability” has been a must for many marketing people since the late 1990s. Companies suddenly called themselves “sustainable”, even if they simply continued as before. Buildings were declared to be sustainable, although technically nothing was changed on them and the old boilers in the basement just kept getting older by the day. And even with equity funds that have the label “sustainable” (or the acronym ESG for the English terms environment, social and governance), it is worthwhile to take a close look at which stocks they invest in. Investor life teaches: “Sustainable” is not everywhere where “sustainable” is written – for example, when investors mean “ecology” under “sustainability”. The Stiftung Warentest recently found out that only a few “sustainable” funds completely exclude fossil fuels.
What does “sustainable” mean anyway?
The Social Science Institute (SWI), based in Hamburg, summarizes the problem as follows: “Sustainability is becoming increasingly important in our society and economy,” says SWI project manager Tim Hrle. “But the term is not clearly defined. There are ecological, social and economic interpretations.” All the more ambitious was the attempt to determine in a study for uro on Sunday which banks in Germany are particularly sustainable from the perspective of their customers.
SWI gave it a try and, based on more than 68,000 customer opinions, found that PSD banks and RaboDirect are the most sustainable banks in Germany, according to the survey participants. They scored “very good”, while the savings banks and regional institutes such as Postbank, Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank and Hypovereinsbank had to get a “satisfactory” rating (see tables and “How it was evaluated”).
Declared sustainability banks such as Bochum’s GLS Bank or Nrnberger UmweltBank were excluded from the survey. The reason: Here the SWI assumes that its customers are convinced of the sustainability of their bank, whatever the details. The survey was aimed at all-rounders such as savings banks, Volksbanks, major regional and direct banks.
“The customers of the banking industry in Germany are not given their customers good grades in terms of sustainability,” says Hrle. “Their more modern direct banking branches, such as Comdirect, are doing better despite similar business practices.” His explanation for this result: “It seems that the image of the banks is still one of the decisive factors for customer opinions on sustainability.” The subsidiaries apparently succeed in “sufficiently emancipating themselves in this area and being perceived by customers as their own brand”.
In fact, in the study in the “regional money institutions” division, it was not only the Sparkasse branches 1822direkt and DKB – Deutsche Kreditbank that achieved the overall rating “good”, but also the Commerzbank subsidiary Comdirect and Consorsbank, which became the French Grobank BNP Paribas belongs. RaboDirect, top marks in the national regions, is a subsidiary of the Dutch Rabobank, which is structured as a cooperative.
Innovations have a lasting effect
Hrle explains the better performance of younger financial institutions with the image of the modern and imaginative. “If customers are satisfied with the innovations of their institute, this noticeably improves their view of its sustainability,” he says. Innovations, for example technical developments and more convenience in banking, had an effect on customers, as if the providers were aligning their company for the future and thus increasing the common good. For many of the survey participants, this was evidently considered sustainable – in this case less in the sense of ecology than with a view to long-term social and economic concerns.
Speaking of sustainability in the form of environmental protection: “Apart from ethical and ecological institutes, customers recognize little differences in the ecological sustainability of banks,” explains Hrle. That means that anyone who does not specifically go to an address of the type environmental bank, which expressly declares that it only finances environmentally friendly projects, cannot recognize that it is in terms of the investment and financing policies of savings banks, PSD banks, large banks or the apparently comparatively hip ones Direct banks are noteworthy differences. Whether this is due to the fact that all banks are actually to be assessed in a substantially similar manner, or whether some use greenwashing, i.e. comarketing instead of substance, to compensate for what others may offer in terms of actual ecological sustainability remains open in the study.
Customers value solution quality
Another finding that can be helpful both for branch banks and for institutes that see themselves as direct banks: “Friendly customer advice with a high quality of solutions stands for customers in connection with improved sustainability,” said Hrle. “If institutes are interested in a long-term relationship with their customers, they perceive them as economically more sustainable.” So it pays to treat customers well in branches. Banks that have little or no branches should ensure that they are easily accessible by phone or email. Then they appear credible in their endeavors to maintain a sustainable business relationship with their customers.
This shows concrete consequences in the survey. Even 54 percent of the generally dissatisfied customers recommend their bank if they are satisfied with the sustainability of the institute. If fundamentally dissatisfied customers are still at a distance from the sustainability of their bank, only a good 11 percent recommend their institute.
What is striking is the very good performance of the PSD banks, which not only landed among the regional, but overall. So customers are extremely satisfied with sustainability. The PSD offshoots in Kiel and Munich made a particularly positive impression here. The SWI gives practical advice to the losers in the survey (major banks, savings banks): “These companies should optimize their actions and communication with regard to sustainability.” Sustainably.
So it was judged
The analysis “Sustainable Bank”, , which the Social Science Institute (SWI) conducted in Hamburg for uro on Sunday, is based on 68,338 questionnaires submitted by bank customers. Basically, this survey, which was carried out for the first time, dealt with the following questions: 1) “How satisfied are you with the sustainability of your bank?” and 2) “How much confidence do you have in your bank?”, supplemented by the additional question: “How great is your trust in the banking industry as a whole?”
The satisfaction and trust values were translated into points. Satisfaction with sustainability was weighted with 70 percent, trust with 30 percent. Banks for which at least 200 customer opinions were submitted were individually ranked. If there were fewer than 200 opinions (concerning many of the regional savings banks, Volksbanken and Sparda banks), they were bundled under a collective term such as “Sparkassen” or “Volks- und Raiffeisenbanken”.
Basis: survey of 68,338 bank customers; over 90 points: very good; from 75 p .: good; from 60 p .: satisfactory; from 45 p .: sufficient; under 45 P .: poor; 2nd in addition to the six individually listed PSD banks, all other PSD banks for which less than 200 votes were cast; 3rd all twelve Sparda banks together. Source: SWI Finance
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