Sal. Oppenheim - The history of the company


Dear clients, staff and friends of the bank,

An electronic version of our much-loved “Blue Book” has been available in addition to the printed book since 2014. As you will see, this opens up many new possibilities for modern communication and information.

The eBook Content is essentially based on the updated eighth edition of the “Blue Book”. It was deliberately published at the start of 2011 – in an especially sensitive phase of Oppenheim's history. Following seven generations under the majority ownership of the Bank's founding family, the acquisition by Deutsche Bank in March 2010 represented a major turn of events for Sal. Oppenheim in a history already rich in upheavals. The first edition thereafter was a symbol of continuity for both clients and staff, a symbol of the preservation of our traditional private banking culture, but also a sign of new beginnings and optimism about the future.

The recent changes are, without doubt, profound. But history is not conceivable without changes and crises. When the young Salomon Oppenheim set up his own business in Bonn in 1789, Germany still comprised hundreds of small states, and bankers served absolute rulers, utterly at their mercy. Since these early days, the Bank has lived through four revolutions, half a dozen wars, six currency reforms, and has seen eleven political regimes come and go, but has always managed to hold its ground. No less fundamental has been the transformation of banking itself, from the quiet office of the sole proprietor to a globally active industry, underpinned by modern information technology.

The founding family had the good fortune to witness a period of epochal change in the form of industrialisation. The Oppenheims recognised and seized the opportunities presented by the Industrial Revolution in a way that few other bankers did. Creative drive, determination and an appetite for risks made them pioneers in the financing of industry. They left a particularly lasting mark in railway construction, in insurance and as the fathers of the first major joint-stock banks.

With such a wealth of activity, risks and failures were bound to arise. But it was precisely those crisis situations which brought out the best in the Bank's leaders and gave rise to creative, forward-looking ideas. For example, in the course of the revolution of 1848, the Cologne-based Abraham Schaaffhausen bank, one of the most important banks in the Rhineland at the time, faced bankruptcy. This would in all likelihood have dragged Sal. Oppenheim and other companies in the area down with it. The Oppenheim bankers and a few fellow sympathisers decided to undertake a sensational rescue, transforming the jeopardised bank into the first incorporated bank in Germany, the “A. Schaaffhausen'scher Bankverein” (bank association). The site of its former headquarters is now occupied by our own Cologne head office, while the bank itself has been absorbed by Deutsche Bank following a series of mergers.

Sal Oppenheim has already overcome many upheavals in its history. So from a historical perspective, the recent changes are nothing new, if by that we mean the necessity and ability to adapt. In an ever-changing world, a business can only survive if it is prepared to play an active part in shaping the future. Sal. Oppenheim has completed its adjustment to the changed ownership structure and repositioned itself. The Bank has returned its focus to the core business of private and institutional asset management. Sal. Oppenheim functions as an independent bank and successfully combines the stable foundation of its parent company with the flexibility and innovative power of a small institution.

My colleagues on the Executive Board and I are especially proud of the fact that, even in times of change, Sal. Oppenheim's clients and staff have remained loyal. We see attentive and continued dialogue with them as one of our core tasks. For our staff, the history of our company is a central aspect of their identity. The Bank's great wealth of experience is key to its further development. In the future too, our success will depend on the interplay of all forces active within and on behalf of the Bank. I am looking forward to tackling these challenges.

Martin Renker,
Chairman of the Executive Board