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BANKING

Germany’s misfiring banking system faces capital conundrum

The country’s banking system had a bad crisis. Cheap funding, overcapacity and poor business models led too many banks to buy rogue assets. But as it returns to health, is there now a shortage of capital to fund needed consolidation?

Walking through the über-chic Mitte district in the old east of Berlin trying to find somewhere quiet for a conversation is a challenge. The pavements are crammed with tourists flocking to see the Brandenburg Gate and Norman Foster’s domed Reichstag. The coffee bars and hotels buzz with conversations about commerce and affairs of state. Germany is not just reunited, it is the confident and swaggering political and economic nexus of continental Europe.

The problems and protests on the eurozone periphery could not seem further away. When we do find somewhere to talk it is therefore surprising to hear a senior figure at the Bundesbank sounding somewhat chastened. The topic, however, is not Germany’s 21st-century economic success, it is the country’s banks.

Andreas Dombret, who has responsibility for financial stability on the six-member executive board of Germany’s central bank
Andreas Dombret, who has responsibility for financial stability on the six-member executive board of Germany’s central bank 

"The financial crisis hit Germany very badly," says Andreas Dombret, who has responsibility for financial stability on the six-member executive board of Germany’s central bank. "We made mistakes, and not every part of the banking system has been a source of pride – far from it."