All of Helaba is the S-Group bank

Interview: new structure for S-Group business

Silo ade: We introduced a new structure for S-Group business on 1 July 2017 to make the internal interfaces between the different product units more professional and efficient and position the Sparkassen at the centre of our efforts. Christiane A. Müllers, Head of Division at Sparkasse Support North, and Dr. Birgit Roos, Chairwoman of the Board of Managing Directors of Sparkasse Krefeld, discuss the roots, benefits and challenges of good teamwork.

Teamwork  within the S-Group

Christiane A. Müllers: We have been collaborating for a long time now Dr. Roos and it is rewarding to see the robust partnership that has flowered from our teamwork over the years.

Dr. Birgit Roos: Indeed – we have been moving in the same circles for many years and began working together properly in 2012 when West-LB’s S-Group bank business was integrated into Helaba. Helaba’s role has expanded substantially since then. The Sparkassen had always been far from satisfied with West-LB when it came to cooperation – and then along came Helaba with a completely different approach. You built trust, not least trust in the new way of sharing tasks. Helaba introduced the idea that the Sparkassen should seek to generate business autonomously in the region and turn to Helaba, their central partner, for help with projects too large or geographically broad-based to be handled independently. The system works and it is good for business.

I have found the whole process a very positive experience as a result, but we have of course had to learn from each other along the way.

Müllers: I completely agree. It is important that everyone within the S-Group should view it as one team. What have been our major issues so far from your point of view?

Dr. Birgit Roos identifies payment transactions as a central factor in teamwork with Helaba.
Dr. Birgit Roos identifies payment transactions as a central factor in teamwork with Helaba.

"Helaba does what it promises"

Dr. Birgit Roos
Chairwoman of the Board of Managing Directors of Sparkasse Krefeld

A real success story

Roos: Our investments on own account. This has been a real success story and a true win-win. Another important area for me has been payment transactions. No single Sparkasse can hope to go it alone here in the international context, so we have to have access to a significant player – one big enough to hold its own on the international stage – on which we can rely. And Helaba, after a certain amount of debate, has given us just that.

Müllers: That was a decision of considerable strategic importance and a good one for our collaborative relationship.

Roos: Absolutely. That the arrangement works so smoothly is a big plus for us Sparkassen: thanks to these new developments, we can approach customers as a genuinely innovative provider. It’s an excellent outcome. We find Helaba’s expertise in the economics field very useful too, as this level of insight is beyond the reach of individual Sparkassen. And then we have loan funds and syndication. It takes a good knowledge of the specialist markets to venture into these areas. Helaba opens the door for us.

Müllers: Have you noticed any change yet as a result of our new structure?

Roos: I think change is probably too strong a word for it. Our collaborative relationship is always growing and evolving. That said, I am sure having everyone now mentally engaged with the idea of S-Group business must make a difference internally for Helaba.

Christiane A. Müllers is enthusiastic about new product ideas that Helaba will be introducing.
Christiane A. Müllers is enthusiastic about new product ideas that Helaba will be introducing.

Change in all Divisions

Müllers: Precisely. Everyone has an eye on Sparkasse business and wants to do their bit for S-Group activities.

Roos: I would expect our teamwork to be even better in the future on this basis. Helaba has recognised that it has ground to make up in certain areas, for example international business. The key question for me in the context of S-Group business is what has Helaba learned over the last few years and where can it now act even more effectively for us Sparkassen?

Müllers: I am very pleased to hear you say that. Internal changes mean, first and foremost, change for employees and it is important that they are motivated and feel involved in the new developments. As somebody with responsibility for sales, nothing could make me happier than to hear my customer tell me we are still on the button. We started the reorganization process last year and have now reached a point at which all units have adopted the new structure.

When Cash Management, for example, starts talking with Capital Markets and other specialist units about what the Sparkassen need, the result is going to be something new: product ideas that we can then present to you.

"We are currently preparing to introduce instant payments."

Christiane A. Müllers
Head of Division at Sparkasse Support North

Digitalisation and a strong regional presence

Roos: Helaba's active upgrading of the Düsseldorf site, for example, is part of the same process. It was very important to make a statement in the Rhineland and make full use of the market potential available. No amount of digitalisation can remove the need for a strong regional presence.

Müllers: Trust, personal contact and a strong presence on the ground with regional sites are as essential as ever in the age of digitalisation. What are the priority issues from your perspective?

Roos: The field of payment transactions plays a central role. Optimal technical support is indispensable and we are dealing with a completely different set of competitors. Only the best will do.

Müllers: We aim to provide just that. This year is another year of substantial change in payment transactions activities. We are currently preparing to introduce instant payments and are also very involved in the ongoing development of processes in joint lending operations.

Roos: The agile concept – this is a different culture for your organization. We can see that there is a different dynamic, a different cooperative approach, starting to emerge and this is important for us. Helaba has the understanding to work with the Sparkassen as equal partners. And it is this insight combined with innovative ideas that makes the S-Group so productive.

"It is helpful to us to have the support of this important interface between Landesbank and Sparkasse. It also provides an answer to the question of how best to open up the market together for the Sparkasse organization."

Dr. Birgit Roos
Chairwoman of the Board of Managing Directors of Sparkasse Krefeld

Teamwork: Dr. Birgit Roos, Chairwoman of the Board of Managing Directors of Sparkasse Krefeld with Christiane A. Müllers, Head of Division at Sparkasse Support North.
Teamwork: Dr. Birgit Roos, Chairwoman of the Board of Managing Directors of Sparkasse Krefeld with Christiane A. Müllers, Head of Division at Sparkasse Support North.
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