Besides the Imperial Bank of Germany, the "Reichsbank," there are about 140 banks doing business in the states which form the German empire. These credit and industrial banks with their large resources have had an immense influence in bringing about the astonishing industrial development of their country. Five banks possess the right of uncovered note-issue; these are: -
The Imperial Bank of Germany
with right of issue
The Bank of Saxony
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The Bank of Bavaria
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The Bank of Württemberg
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The Bank of Baden
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At the Bank of Germany the coin and bullion held is sometimes larger than at the Bank of England. The statement of the specie in the weekly accounts includes silver. The amounts held in gold and silver are only separated once a year, when the balance-sheet is published. The figures of the balance-sheet for the 31st of December 1906 showed in round numbers £24,000,000 gold and £9,000,000 silver. As far as the capital is concerned the £18,000,000 of the Bank of England considerably exceeds the £9,000,000 of the Bank of France and the £12,200,000 of the Bank of Germany. The note circulation of both the other banks is considerably larger than that of the Bank of England, that of the Bank of France being £186,300,000, and of the Imperial Bank of Germany £69,000,000 in 1906.
The capitals and reserves of the German banks, including those of banks established to do business in other countries, as South America and the Far East, and of the Bank of Germany, are about £133,000,000, with further resources, including deposits, notes and mortgage bonds, amounting to fully £414,000,000. The amount of the capital compares very closely with that of the capitals of the banks of the United Kingdom. The deposits are increasing. The deposits, however, are not the whole of the resources of the German banks. The banks make use, besides, of their acceptances in a manner which is not practised by the banks of other countries, and the average note circulation of the Reichsbank, included in the statement given above, is between £60,000,000 and £70,000,000.
A large and apparently increasing proportion of the resources of the German banks is employed in industrial concerns, some of which are beyond the boundaries of the empire. The dangers of this practice have called forth many criticisms in Germany, among which may be quoted the remarks of Caesar Strauss and of Dr R. Koch, the president of the Reichsbank. Dr Koch especially points out the need of the development of powerful banks in Germany unconnected with speculative business of this kind. The object of employing their funds thus is the higher rate of interest to be obtained from these investments than from discounting bills or making loans at home. But such an employment of the resources of a bank is opposed to all regular rules of business and of banking tradition, which abstains from making fixed investments of any large part of the resources of a bank. On the other hand, Dr Koch observes that the risks of the one "reserve system" mentioned by Bagehot are not to be feared in Germany. The recent movement in favour of concentration among the banks has been described by Dr E. Depitre and Dr Riesser, who give particulars of the business done by these banks, which does not correspond with banking as practised in the United Kingdom, being more of an industrial character.
There are also many private banking firms in Germany which do a considerable amount of business.
The Reichsbank, by far the most powerful banking institution in Germany, is managed by the bank directory appointed by the chancellor of the empire. The shareholders join in the management through a committee, of which each member must be qualified by holding not less than three shares. The government exercises complete powers of control through the chancellor of the empire. The influence of the Imperial Bank now permeates, by means of its branches, all the separate kingdoms of the empire - the uniformity of coinage introduced through the laws of 1871-1873 rendering this possible. The Imperial Bank assists business principally in two ways - first, through the clearing system (Giro-Verkehr), which it has greatly developed, and secondly, through the facilities given to business by its note circulation. The Imperial Bank also receives deposits, and cheques are drawn against these, but in Germany notes are principally used in payments for ordinary business.
Before the Reichsbank was established, Hamburg was the first, and for a long time the only, example of a clearing in Germany. This was taken up by the Reichsbank when it established its office in Hamburg in the time-honoured building which had belonged to the Hamburg Clearing House. Similar business had long been undertaken by the Bank of Prussia. This was absorbed and developed by the Reichsbank in 1876. Through the "clearing system" money can be remitted from any of the 443 places in which there is an office of the Reichsbank, to any of these places, without charge either to the sender or the receiver. It is sufficient that the person to whom the money is to be remitted should have an account at the bank. Any person owing him money in the remotest parts of the empire may go to the office of the bank which is most convenient to him and pay in the amount of his debt, which is credited on the following day at the office of the bank, without charge, to the account of his creditor wherever he may reside. The person who makes the payment need not have any account with the bank. The impetus given to business by this arrangement has been very considerable. It practically amounts to a money-order system without charge or risk of loss in transmission.
From Hamburg and Bremen to the frontiers of Russia, from the shores of the Baltic to the frontiers of Switzerland, the whole of the empire of Germany has thus become for monetary purposes one country only. The amount of these transfers for the year 1906 exceeded £1,860,000,000.
The note circulation is also a powerful factor of the business of the Reichsbank. It is governed by the law of 1875 and the amending law of 1899, corresponding in some degree to Peel's act of 1844, which regulates the note circulation of the Bank of England. An uncovered limit, originally £12,500,000, increased to £14,811,450 by the lapse of the issues of other banks allowed to it, has been extended by these and by the act of the 5th of June 1902 to £23,641,450. Against the notes thus issued which are not represented by specie, treasury notes (Reichskassenscheine, the legal tender notes of the empire) and notes of the issuing banks which are allowed to be reckoned as specie or discounted bills, must be held - maturing not later than three months after being taken - with, as a rule, three, but never less than two, good indorsements. There is also a provision that at least one-third of the notes in circulation must be covered by current German notes, money, notes of the imperial treasury, and gold in bullion or foreign coin reckoned at £69, 12s. per pound fine. The Reichsbank is bound by law to redeem its notes in current German money.