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The Privatization of Italian Savings Banks: A Role Model for Germany?


  • Elena Carletti
  • Hendrik Hakenes
  • Isabel Schnabel


The privatization of the Italian savings banks is often described as a success story. Proponents of privatization argue that a similar reform could cure the current problems in the German banking sector. In this paper, we ask whether the Italian experience can really serve as a role model for Germany. Our analysis confirms that the Italian reforms of the 1990s were a success. Banks' profitability increased, without impairing competition or the availability of banking services and loans. However, this success has to be attributed to a broad set of reforms, which went far beyond the privatization of savings banks. Moreover, Italy had a different starting point before the reforms, and the structure of the public banking sector differed markedly from Germany's. Therefore, one may question the transferability of the Italian experience to Germany. The costs and benefits of privatization should be weighed carefully against each other before abandoning the three-pillar system. Die Privatisierung italienischer Sparkassen wird häufig als Erfolgsgeschichte bezeichnet. Befürworter einer Privatisierung argumentieren, dass die gegenwärtigen Probleme im deutschen Bankensystem auf ähnlichem Wege behoben werden könnten. In diesem Aufsatz stellen wir die Frage, ob das italienische Beispiel wirklich als Vorbild für Deutschland dienen kann. Unsere Analyse bestätigt, dass die italienischen Reformen der 90er Jahre ein Erfolg waren. Die Banken wurden profitabler, ohne dass der Wettbewerb oder die Verfügbarkeit von Bankleistungen oder Krediten eingeschränkt wurden. Dieser Erfolg ist jedoch das Ergebnis eines breiten Reformprozesses, der weit über die Privatisierung der Sparkassen hinausging. Außerdem war der Ausgangspunkt vor den Reformen ein anderer als in Deutschland, und der öffentliche Bankensektor wies andere Strukturen auf. Daher kann man die Übertragbarkeit der italienischen Erfahrung auf Deutschland in Frage stellen. Kosten und Nutzen einer Privatisierung sollten sorgfältig gegeneinander abgewogen werden, bevor man das "Drei-Säulen-System" aufgibt.

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  • Elena Carletti & Hendrik Hakenes & Isabel Schnabel, 2005. "The Privatization of Italian Savings Banks: A Role Model for Germany?," Vierteljahrshefte zur Wirtschaftsforschung / Quarterly Journal of Economic Research, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, vol. 74(4), pages 32-50.
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwvjh:74-4-3

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hendrik Hakenes & Isabel Schnabel, 2006. "The Threat of Capital Drain: A Rationale for Public Banks?," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2006_11, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
    2. International Monetary Fund, 2004. "Germany's Three-Pillar Banking System; Cross-Country Perspectives in Europe," IMF Occasional Papers 233, International Monetary Fund.
    3. Amel, Dean & Barnes, Colleen & Panetta, Fabio & Salleo, Carmelo, 2004. "Consolidation and efficiency in the financial sector: A review of the international evidence," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 28(10), pages 2493-2519, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Elisabetta Fiorentino & Alessio De Vincenzo & Frank Heid & Alexander Karmann & Michael Koetter, 2009. "The effects of privatization and consolidation on bank productivity: comparative evidence from Italy and Germany," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 722, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    2. Mitja Stefancic, 2014. "Investigating Management Turnover in Italian Cooperative Banks," Journal of Entrepreneurial and Organizational Diversity, European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises, vol. 3(1), pages 131-163, June.
    3. Cristi SPULBAR & Mihai NITOI & Lucian ANGHEL, 2015. "Efficiency In Cooperative Banks And Savings Banks : A Stochastic Frontier Approach," Journal for Economic Forecasting, Institute for Economic Forecasting, vol. 0(1), pages 5-21, March.
    4. Engel, Dirk & Middendorf, Torge, 2009. "Investment, internal funds and public banking in Germany," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 33(11), pages 2132-2139, November.
    5. Hakenes, Hendrik & Schnabel, Isabel, 2006. "The Threat of Capital Drain: A Rationale for Public Banks?," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 107, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
    6. Uwe Vollmer & Diemo Dietrich & Ralf bebenroth, 2009. "Behold the 'Behemoth'. The privatization of Japan Post Bank," Discussion Paper Series 236, Research Institute for Economics & Business Administration, Kobe University.
    7. Bülbül, Dilek & Schmidt, Reinhard H. & Schüwer, Ulrich, 2013. "Savings banks and cooperative banks in Europe," SAFE White Paper Series 5, Goethe University Frankfurt, Research Center SAFE - Sustainable Architecture for Finance in Europe.

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