27-29th May 2024
In order to make profits, speculation is part of the daily business of the financial world. In the past decades, more and more areas of life that previously did not follow the logic of the financial world have been systematically conquered by it. This has far-reaching effects on the lives of many people. Whether in the housing market or in the health sector: the focus is on increasing corporate value – and not on the quality of care or the availability of affordable housing. When the financial market turns more and more areas of society into investment objects without regulation, short-term profit interests and long-term social goals come into conflict with each other. What can be done about the fact that profit is made by the few at the expense of the many?
And then there is the lobby of banks, funds and insurance companies. It usually works in secret and mostly to the detriment of the general public: Riester and CumEx, bank regulation and financial transaction tax – in the past years and decades, banks, insurers and their lobby have prevented sensible laws and regulations, systematically undermined financial supervision and the fight against financial crime, and created numerous financial products from which mainly their providers profit.
As a member of the Bundestag, the national parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany, Gerhard Schick has experienced first-hand how big the resource advantage of perhaps the most powerful lobby in Berlin is over civil society – and where it can lead if banks, insurers and co. assert their interests unhindered. His keynote at re:publica is about political relationship management, dubious studies and well-oiled revolving doors. It is about the question of who has power in our society and is allowed to exert influence – the one with a lot of money or the one with the better arguments? And finally, it is about the question of what a counterweight to the powerful financial lobby looks like and why we need it to solve the big questions of the future.
Gerhard Schick is co-founder and board member of the citizens' movement Finanzwende. From 2005 to 2018, he was the financial policy spokesman for the Bündnis 90/Die Grünen parliamentary group in the Bundestag and a member of the financial market committee. There, he made a name for himself above all through his work for the clarification around CumEx and the bank bailouts. In 2018, he resigned from his Bundestag mandate to work for the non-governmental organisation Finanzwende. With the association, he fights – together with many others – for more stable, fair and sustainable financial markets. He is also the author of the book „Die Bank gewinnt immer“ (The Bank Always Wins).
At #rp23, we look forward to Gerhard Schick's exciting insights into the topic of financialisation and the financial lobby – and what effects they have on our society.
Let's talk about CASH! An interview with Gerhard Schick.
This year's motto of re:publica is CASH. Which topic that is close to your heart is particularly affected by having – and not having – financial means?
Without money, social participation is only possible with restrictions. When there is no money for the club membership fee or the children's school trip, when the electricity is cut off because bills are not paid: Those who have no money quickly find themselves on the fringes of society. It pains me to see how millions of people experience exactly that due to over-indebtedness and how our society is hardly interested in this problem. And it especially upsets me when some banks or debt collection companies make a high return on their business with the poorest people and accept their over-indebtedness.
You and Finanzwende e.V., which you founded, work on a wide range of financial topics: from financial crime to environmental friendliness, stability and fairness of the financial markets to consumer protection. Which aspects would you like to present at #rp23?
At Finanzwende, we actually work on a lot of financial issues. But there is one common ground: we always see ourselves as a counterweight to the financial lobby. I myself have experienced as a member of the national parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany how massively and sometimes aggressively this lobby interferes in politics and legislation and what methods it uses. The ones who suffer are often all of us – although the financial lobby likes to pretend that it is acting in the interest of the general public. It is important for me to show that this is not the case. And that it is possible to oppose the lobby so that the interests of citizens in the financial market do not fall by the wayside. Of course, this creates headwinds, as we are currently experiencing again and again. But that actually only shows us that we are on the right path.
Around which topic of finance and especially financial markets do you think there is too much hype or misunderstanding at the moment?
There are a lot. For example, the hype about sustainable investments that are not sustainable at all is problematic. Supposedly green funds invest huge sums in oil companies. It’s about time that banks become financial partners in ecological projects instead of financing investments that tie us to dirty energies for years. Another misunderstanding is the belief that everything must be subjected to the return logic of the financial markets. We see these tendencies in the area of care, in real estate, in health care. A lot of money is being extracted from society, to the advantage of a few and to the disadvantage of many. That is neither sustainable nor sensible.
What was your personal motivation for founding Finanzwende e.V.?
During my time as a member of parliament, I talked to a lot of people who had become victims of unscrupulous actors on the financial markets. Unfortunately, there are quite a few of them – banks and fund providers who sell nonsensical and far too risky products, or insurers who collect high premiums from customers over the years and then simply don't want to pay in the event of a claim. The people who fell for such people were often very happy when someone just listened to them, because they were not used to that at all. That showed me two things: firstly, that these people also need a lobby, but don't have one at the moment. And secondly, that it is possible to fight back and make a difference – not alone, but together.
In the spirit of our motto CASH – what are your current reading/podcast or video recommendations? Where can we best educate ourselves on the topic of finance?
If you want to get ahead for your own financial decisions, I recommend "Einfach genial entscheiden im Falle einer Finanzkrise: Konstruktive Crashgedanken" by Hartmut Walz. The CumEx scandal has been very well presented by Massimo Bognanni in his book "Unter den Augen des Staates". I myself am currently watching the third part of the series "Casa de Papel", which is about the gold bars of the Spanish central bank - that would be something for the more relaxed part of the evening. And in all modesty, I'll now mention my book "Die Bank gewinnt immer" for a general overview of the topic and the Finanzwende newsletter to keep up with dirty deals on the financial markets and what we are doing together against them.