Sunday, November 24, 2019

58% of German Banks Charge Negative Interest Rates


Germany's central bank, the Deutsche Bundesbank, has conducted a survey of banks charging negative interest rates on customer deposits. Some are charging retail customers as well as corporate clients. An independent price comparison portal shows which banks are currently charging for deposits and how much they are charging.

Central Bank Survey
A growing number of German banks are passing on the burden of negative interest rates to their customers as the European Central Bank (ECB) continues to maintain a negative interest rate policy (NIRP). The current ECB deposit rate is -0.5%, the lowest on record.

"Many banks in Germany have introduced negative rates on deposits," the Deutsche Bundesbank wrote in its November monthly report after conducting a survey of 220 banks at the end of September regarding their negative interest rate policies. The central bank believes that the surveyed banks constitute a representative sample of the overall sector, thereby allowing it to make qualified statements concerning the spread of negative interest rates on customer deposits in the German banking sector. The Financial Times summarized:

58% of the banks said they were levying negative rates on some corporate deposits and 23% said they were doing the same for retail depositors.

Even the country's largest banks have started charging their customers for deposits. Deutsche Bank CFO James von Moltke told analysts last month that his bank had stepped up its attempts to pass on the negative rate burden to corporate clients. "This is more difficult in the private bank business than in corporate or institutional deposits and we don't see an ability to adjust legal terms and conditions of our accounts on a broad-based basis," the CFO was quoted as saying. He added that his bank had also approached some retail clients with large deposits on the matter.

Similarly, Commerzbank CFO Stephan Engels revealed earlier this month that his bank had already been approaching wealthy retail customers holding deposits of more than 1 million euros ($1.11 million).

Which Banks Charge Negative Interest Rates
While the central bank did not provide a list of banks that are charging negative interest rates, German consumer price comparison platform Verivox has published several lists of banks that fall into this category. The platform claims to have examined the policies of over 800 German banks.

According to its current database, at least 21 banks have published their negative rate policies online and seven others are charging fees for money market accounts which are usually free. Further, the platform lists 20 other banks that the media have reported as charging for deposits but they have not published the information on their websites.

Verivox's list of 21 banks currently charging negative interest rates on customer deposits. was able to verify that a number of banks on the Verivox list do charge negative interest rates including Berliner Volksbank, Ethikbank, Skatbank, Sparda-Bank Berlin, Sparkasse Harburg-Buxtehude, Volksbank Eisenberg, and Volksbank F├╝rstenfeldbruck. Berliner Volksbank, one of the largest German cooperative banks, started charging -0.5% on accounts with at least 100,000 euros on Oct. 1, as previously reported.

Following the move by the ECB to lower the key interest rate to -0.5% in September, Skatbank announced its negative interest rate policy, emphasizing:

We can no longer economically accept responsibility for maintaining the ECB negative interest rate in full. So far, negative interest rates were only incurred for large-scale depositors. As a result of its actions, the ECB leaves us no other choice than to further restrict our deposit business.

Another German price comparison website, Biallo, claims to have found more than 150 German financial institutions that are charging negative interest rates. Founder Horst Biallo wrote, "A survey of just over 1,300 banks and savings banks shows that a good 150 financial institutions are now charging negative interest, 52 of which are private sector institutions." However, his list is not publicly available.

First Bank to Charge Small Savers Negative Rate
Among the 21 banks on Verivox's list is Volksbank F├╝rstenfeldbruck, a cooperative bank located west of Munich. The bank has recently been in the news for being the first German bank to pass on the cost of negative interest rates to even small savers.

The bank explained that it will collect a custody fee of -0.5% on instant access savings accounts, the Financial Times detailed. "New clients who also do other business with the bank, such as real estate financing or pension planning, will be exempt from the charges." The bank's website shows that accounts opened on Oct. 1 or later with deposits of 0.01 euro or more will be charged the fee. Inundated with inquiries about its new policy following media reports, the bank put up an explanation on its website, emphasizing that only new clients are affected. Verivox CEO Oliver Maier was quoted by the Financial Times on Tuesday as saying:

Negative interest rates have now reached the average saver.
What do you think of a growing number of German banks passing on the burden of negative interest rates to their customers? Let us know in the comments section below.

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