By Lisi Niesner, editing by Victoria Bryan
Peter Breiter, 41, is not your typical bank manager. He wears jeans and a jumper to work, he writes everything out by hand, and he’s also not afraid to use a mop to clean the floor. But neither is this a standard bank, staffed by a row of anonymous employees behind glass screens. The Raiffeisen Gammesfeld eG cooperative bank in southern Germany is one of the smallest in Germany and a visit here is like stepping back in time.
From the waiting area with ladies sharing local gossip to the office, where Breiter still uses a typewriter and an adding machine, the surface enamel worn away by years of use, things do not seem to have changed much since the bank was founded in 1890. Even the price list is shown in deutschmarks, with the euro equivalent hand written on.
The bank nearly didn’t make it this far though. At the end of the 1980s, Germany’s bank supervisory authority withdrew Gammesfeld’s operating licence as it didn’t have the requisite number of staff to meet the ‘second pair of eyes’ principle to double check transactions.
Fritz Vogt, manager at the time and whose grandfather founded the bank, faced a three-year jail sentence for illegally operating a bank and it was only after six trials and a ruling from the federal administrative court that the bank was given permission to operate without the usual two full-time employees. Vogt, now 82, handed over the running of the bank and its approximately 400 current accounts, in 2008 to Breiter, who left his career-focused job at a bigger bank in a neighboring town.
Breiter, whose suit now hangs unworn in the cupboard, says he took the job in Gammesfeld to prevent the bank from being gobbled up a bigger rival. “I’ve not regretted a single second,” he said, explaining how former colleagues had mocked him for leaving to join a ‘museum’.