When "Banquiers" became "Bankers"

What´s in a word? - You might say. (And: Gee, is she really THAT old ?!?! Afraid she IS. THAT old).

Ok, where was I? Banquier versus Banker ....

What´s the difference? If it means the same thing: A man who is running a bank.

Sort of.

Well, I think there IS a difference, because the Banquiers of the seventies were quite different corporate "animals" from the Bankers of the decades to follow.

Why? Well, let me take you along on a trip down memory lane ...

Picture this: Frau Wadhwa, junior reporter at Reuters news agency in Frankfurt at her first ever bank earnings press conference, way back in the .... well, let´s just say a long, long time ago.

No ad hoc news, no press statement even, no mobile phone and lap tops, forget TV cameras (oh, they existed, of course, even I am not THAT old; but television in those days was not interested in business news).

Just the joint spokesmen of the board of Deutsche Bank - no CEO´s in German banking in those days either - pontificating to an auditorium of about 100 men and 3 women (one of them ME!) for more than two hours about such mysterious things as partial operating profit, gross operating profit and Article 26a write-offs.

THAT - dear interested reader - was as close as you got in those days to the earnings of a German bank.

After another two hours of equally unenlightening Q & A, Frau Wadhwa dared to raise her hand and ask: And how much DID you earn last year? THAT prompted some more or less patronising guffawing from the assembled - elderly, male and very German business press - and a raised eyebrow from one of the afore-mentioned spokesmen of the board, the very distinguished (late) Wilhelm F. Christians.

And he, former cavalry officer, was a real Banquier - believe you me.

"Frau ... I didn´t catch you name ... we just had a three hour press conference on this", he pointed out helpfully.

Me, red with embarrassment, but undaunted, insisted doggedly, "Yes. But nowhere did you tell how much you really earned." Silence from the audience.

And a sparse, superior smile from Herr Christians.

"No. I did not. Nor am I going to." And that was that.

Thirty odd years on, we HAVE ad-hoc news, quarterly reports, trading updates, profits before, in between and after extraordinary items, instant analysis and, and, and.

But I ask you - hand on heart! - are we any the wiser? Seems not.

Because today, when Banquiers like Wilhelm F. Christians have been replaced by bankers like Josef Ackermann, we also have SIVs, conduits and sponsored programmes in and outside balance sheets ... and my cynical guess is, when Deutsche Bank publishes it latest earnings figures Tuesday morning, with instant analysis by their fellow bankers and US hot on their heels ... I for one still stand by the stubborn verdict of young Frau Wadhwa of those thirty odd years ago and say: "You still haven´t told me what you really earned."

Or lost, for that matter.

So watch this space and OLD Frau Wadhwa outside Deutsche Bank asking and hopefully answering at least SOME pertinent questions.

Ciao for now.

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