By Werner Dorschel
“Technology at Commerzbank, from 1870 to Today”
is the subject of a publication by the Eugen Gutmann Society. *
In these times of digital transformation, a new publication deals with the technologies used in banking operations, spanning a period of 150 years. And it’s written by three historians with PhDs? Initially, this appears unusual.
The foreword is written by the former COO of Commerzbank, Andreas de Maizière, while an in-depth interview with the former Board Member for Technology and Operations, Frank Annuscheit, concludes the latest volume in the series “Banks in Transition”.
Why is it so interesting to read this volume of nearly 200 pages today, in 2020?
Firstly, even trained bankers will find the descriptions of the history of modern-day private banks are impressively vivid. Secondly, when it comes to the importance of technology and engineering in providing and handling banking processes, the various strategic turns during the development of the Commerzbank banking group are presented in a clear and understandable manner.
The beginning of data processing, with the invention of punched cards by Hollerith, to the use of block chain technology, are the starting point and the preliminary intermediate milestone in the use of ever-changing technological procedures and infrastructures in the handling of banking processes. Technology is considered the driver in the organisation of banking. At the same time, the acceleration of innovation cycles is becoming very clear, as are the resulting necessary changes in the banking industry’s business models.
Finding out more about the eventful history of the bank’s sourcing strategies is particularly interesting. And these, in turn, are standard for the entire banking industry. The pride in mastering technologies in-house is being replaced by the consistent cost-oriented outsourcing of automated reproduction processes to providers outside of the bank itself. This retrospective of banking technology very clearly demonstrates that the transformation principle of digitalisation is not new. Technology drives the business model.
At the same time, reading this useful volume clearly demonstrates that, although the use of technological developments is necessary, it is by no means sufficient to secure the success story of a financial institution. Ultimately, technology is a “non-competitive conditio sine qua non for all competing financial institutions. So it becomes clear: Technology is merely a means to an end, and certainly not an end in itself.
A recommended retrospective of the history of banking IT, written by people without an IT background.
* Who was Eugen Gutmann actually? Eugen Gutmann was the founder of Dresdner Bank, which, as is well known, merged with Commerzbank.
Banks in Transition: Technology in Commerzbank, from 1870 to Today (1. edition; Henrich Druck + Medien GmbH; 26 September 2019; Christian Berg, Detlef Kraue, Stefan Stein)
Insight into the 219-page work (Source: Henrich Druck + Medien GmbH)