Central Bank in Hiding

Why so shy? The European Central Bank should properly advertise its presence in Frankfurt.

April 26, 2000

Why so shy? The European Central Bank should properly advertise its presence in Frankfurt.

Unlike the big cities in the United States, most German cities are not filled with towering skyscrapers. But that is not true in Frankfurt. There, developers are building ever more high-rises in the city’s business district downtown. Surprisingly, the architecture of many of these towers is quite appealing — and they are easily attracting some of Germany’s most prestigious businesses and organizations as tenants.

Not so surprising, of course, is the fact that these companies are using these same towers as giant billboards. Everywhere you look, you see the name of this or that company or corporate logo beaming prominently from the top of some tall buildings.

Befitting Frankfurt’s status as a major European financial center, most of the city’s skyscrapers feature the logos of big banks, which constitute that city’s main industry. Deutsche Bank, by far the largest bank in Germany, has its name on two big towers in the city center. Commerzbank, the country’s fourth largest, has compensated for its deficient rank by putting its name on the tallest building in Europe.

But there is another important bank in Frankfurt these days — one that nearly goes unnoticed. It occupies a major office tower in a beautiful location downtown. As a recent addition to the city’s financial scene, one might expect this institution to be particularly keen on displaying its name and logo as a means of announcing its arrival — and its importance.

Yet, no matter where you look, the institution appears to have decided to remain incognito. And that is rather unfortunate — especially when many people, including its own top officials, discuss very publicly the institution’s lack of popular support. Why play hide and seek under such circumstances?

It must be because the central bankers inhabiting that stately tower still do not have the foggiest idea about how to market themselves to the public they serve. They are, it seems, entirely focused on engaging in dialogues only with other monetary experts. And when they speak to the public, they seem to prefer doing so only through august financial newspapers and magazines.

But imagine the benefits if these bankers were more imaginative. Affixing a big, fat euro symbol on the four sides of the European Central Bank tower would not just impress the Frankfurters. Even the thousands of people flying into Frankfurt’s international airport would see it. And Germans would finally understand that what truly towers over them now is the euro.