Fresh air and experience: to ensure good decisions, we need both

Aareal Bank depends on the expertise of its employees, which has been built up over many years. At the same time, we are attracting more and more younger colleagues. On the occasion of our anniversary, we brought experience and youth together for a discussion. What can different generations learn from each other, and how do we get along with each other? And why are both backgrounds important to ensure our future viability over the next 100 years?

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Bruna Geske has worked at Aareal Bank for a year, while Michael Kunart has been here for 20 years. The two agree that as long as different generations and nationalities benefit from each other, the Bank's future looks positive.

Editor: Bruna Geske, since July 2022 you've been on the Bank's Non-Financial Risk team, i.e. the division that, among other things, is concerned with compliance with laws, such as the prevention of money laundering and fraud. Your impressions of our organisation are still very fresh. Michael Kunart, you will soon be celebrating your 20-year anniversary at Aareal. We are keen to know how your perceptions of the Bank differ. Bruna, perhaps you could report first from your perspective as a newcomer?

Bruna Geske: Sure. I come from Albania and studied economic science in Tirana, Warsaw and Gießen. I also completed a master's degree in Economic Behaviour and Governance at the University of Kassel. I'm currently a Junior Manager on the Non-Financial Risk – Anti-Financial Crime team. What I found really remarkable was that when it became clear during the application phase that I was a good fit for the advertised position, the Bank did everything it could to ensure I got a work permit for Germany as quickly as possible. Despite my degrees from German universities, it wasn't that straightforward. When you see the managers championing your cause, then of course that means that they're showing a huge amount of trust in you, and as a result I felt welcome in the team from day one.

Editor: Michael, you came to Germany from Czechoslovakia in 1987. What brought you to Aareal Bank in 2003?

Michael Kunart: I was 11 years old when I came to Germany and I had to learn the language properly to start with. After attending a secondary school with a focus on business, I initially wanted to study something scientific in Karlsruhe, but in the end decided on banking. As I've always liked working with figures, it was also a good match for me. I applied to Aareal Bank because they were looking for someone with good knowledge of Czech. I started out in Credit Management, and for the last few years I've been working in Credit Risk, assessing credit risks in our portfolio.

Editor: Bruna, how do you detect risks or scams? What's important here?

To recognise money laundering or fraud, you need to be able to analyse and understand complex structures

Bruna Geske

Bruna Geske: You need to carefully analyse the perpetrator's intentions. Money laundering and fraud prevention is also about reading small signals to identify the new strategies that perpetrators keep coming up with. That means everyone in our department is very open to observations, suggestions and approaches put forward by us younger colleagues. Our dealings with each other are very constructive.

Editor: Michael, as a long-standing colleague, what's your view on this? Can you give Bruna any advice?

Complete traceability is a fundamental principle of our work

Michael Kunart

Michael Kunart: The influx of young professionals joining the Bank has increased significantly over the last two or three years, which brings a breath of fresh air to our work. At the same time, it's increasingly important that our processes remain transparent and comprehensible. We're still allowed to exercise individual discretion in Credit Risk, but it's important that we're able to justify and document our decisions seamlessly at all times – both internally and in dealings with external auditors.

Bruna Geske: I quickly realised how important this traceability is, as it helped me a great deal during my induction. It's only when you have everything set out clearly in front of you that you can prepare good decisions or make them yourself. Sometimes I'm asked if computers will soon be taking care of all this for us. I don't think so; progressive digitalisation can help us with the collection and analysis of data, but in the end you need people to make good decisions.

Editor: Speaking of digitalisation, what's your opinion on that, Michael?

We earn our money by making good decisions. No computer is going to take over this task that quickly

Michael Kunart

Michael Kunart: I completely agree with Bruna. The Bank launched a major digitalisation drive in 2017, and at first I was a bit worried that my job could become redundant at some point. Today I earn part of my salary by processing data with the aid of AI – but the Bank pays me to use this as the basis for making good, reliable decisions. That isn't going to change any time soon. And that's also one reason why, along with fresh, creative expertise, we should trust in the seniority principle: if you've experienced difficult financial developments and constant changes in our industry and have survived these, you can draw on this experience when it comes to future challenges.

Editor: Do you agree, Bruna?

Bruna Geske: I've only been here for about a year, but my impressions so far are consistent with Michael's relaxed attitude. All the changes that this organisation has been through and all the innovations it has helped shape in 100 years are enormous! And now I also understand why many colleagues have been at the Bank for so long: people help each other and are happy to pass on their knowledge.