One-man bank keeps German village business running

Wed Feb 13, 2013 1:32pm EST
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By Victoria Bryan

GAMMESFELD, Germany (Reuters) - Peter Breiter, 41, is an unusual banker. Not for him the big bonuses, complicated financial instruments and multi-million deals.

He is happy instead writing transaction slips out by hand for the 500 inhabitants of the tiny southern German village of Gammesfeld.

"Why would I use a cash machine?" said Friedrich Feldmann, a customer sitting in the bank's small waiting room on his once-weekly visit to withdraw cash. "They cost money anyway."

The Raiffeisen Gammesfeld eG cooperative bank in southern Germany is one of the country's 10 smallest banks by deposits and is the only one to be run by just one member of staff.

Small banks like this dominate the German banking landscape. Rooted in communities, they offer a limited range of accounts and loans to personal and local business customers.

While numbers have shrunk from around 7,000 in the 1970s to around 1,100 now, cooperative banks like Raiffeisen Gammesfeld provide competition for Germany's two largest banks - Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank.

A typical day's work for Breiter involves providing villagers with cash for their day-to-day needs and arranging small loans for local businesses. Not to mention cleaning the one-story building that houses the bank, which is 200 meters from his own front door.

Moving from a bigger bank, where it was all "sell, sell, sell", Gammesfeld-born Breiter says taking up this job in 2008 was the best decision he ever made.   Continued...

Peter Breiter, CEO of Raiffeisen Gammesfeld eG bank, hangs up the table of prices at the bank in Gammesfeld, Baden-Wuerttemberg January 29, 2013. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner