If you want to help shape things, you need to be able to listen

What is different about working for a commercial property lender like Aareal Bank, as opposed to what you would typically expect of a bank? At the occasion of our anniversary, we put this question to colleagues who joined us as "lateral entrants" from other professions and sectors. How did they get here? What's it like for non-bankers in a bank?

Willy Schüller has worked as an adviser in the Governmental Affairs department at Aareal Bank since June 2022. His job is to play a role in the Group-wide political communications of Aareal Bank Group and to represent the Group's interests. He believes that communication begins with listening carefully. 

Editor: Mr Schüller, at 30 years old, you're part of the younger generation at the Bank. You play an important part in the interface with political leaders in Berlin. Tell us how you ended up in this job. 

Willy Schüller: I would say via a circuitous route, which ultimately paid off, and which I benefit from in my work today. I began by studying to become a teacher of church music and music. During the practical phase, I noticed how much administrative work was involved in a teaching position or a job in a church parish. It's difficult to concentrate on music when you constantly have other tasks to perform. I then decided to make a clean break and completed a second, interdisciplinary degree in London in "Philosophy, Politics and Economy". I had always been interested in politics.

I gained my first professional experience working for a member of the German parliament

Willy Schüller

Editor: How did you then begin your career? 

Willy Schüller: First of all, I worked for a member of the German parliament for almost two years. Then I worked at federal state level in the State Chancellery of Saxony. I first dealt with banking and financial issues in the Bundestag, where I assisted my member of parliament with their work on the finance committee. 

Editor: And how did you end up changing sides, so to speak, and going into the private sector? 

Willy Schüller: I found the time I spent in the office at the Bundestag very rewarding, as I was thrown right into the heart of the political action and was able to learn a lot of practical things after my studies. I also gained many interesting insights into political operations while working as an adviser at the State Chancellery. However, in public administration you also come up against limits in terms of what you can achieve and how quickly. I like to have a bit more agility and opportunity to shape things in my work.  

Editor: So you expected to find this agility by switching to the corporate sector? 

Willy Schüller: Exactly. When I read the job advertisement for Aareal Bank, I only knew the name from paying my rent each month, which I transferred to an account at Aareal Bank. All the same, I realised that the Bank was closely linked with the housing and property industry. I then found out more, and concluded that the person they were looking for was me and that this bank was a very significant player in its market. 

To help shape things, you need to be able to listen and to develop a sense for the issues involved

Willy Schüller

Editor: You've talked about the opportunity to shape things. What does that look like in your day-to-day work today? 

Willy Schüller: As the Governmental Affairs department, we deal with political issues in Berlin, Brussels and the German federal states. That covers a broad range of content. We ask ourselves: What's particularly important to us as a bank, where can we work well with our associations, how can we make the best use of our expertise? Working out courses of action and implementing them – that offers a lot of scope to be creative and a lot of variety. Every day brings something new. One key factor is our positioning as a specialist bank for property financing. We have extremely high levels of expertise in these areas at our Company. That means we can go into great depth with regard to specific topics and carry out an expert analysis of even the finest details. 

Editor: So that means it's not just one-way communication – you firstly need to take on board a lot of different voices and positions? 

Willy Schüller: Good communication always goes in both directions, I think that's very important. And I think my musical sense for subtle differences in tone also helps here. If you want to conduct an orchestra to play a piece of music or sing in a choir, you need to develop the ability to listen first. It's the same in the political arena: listen carefully, understand and then contribute your own opinions in a purposeful way. 

In my day-to-day work, I find colleagues at Aareal Bank very approachable and open to new things

Willy Schüller

Editor: How do colleagues at the Bank support you in your work? 

Willy Schüller: Aareal Bank is brimming with 100 years of expertise, ranging from its time as a classic Pfandbrief institution to its current position as a future-oriented property lender and partner to the housing industry in the digital transformation. What's nice about it is that it's not all dead knowledge – our colleagues have their expertise to hand at all times. Whether it's about digitalisation, legal or economic issues, whether I'm calling from Berlin or come by in person in Wiesbaden, I always get an answer straight away – direct, uncomplicated and on equal terms. Colleagues are very willing to help and also open to new things. This hands-on mentality is typical of an SME and really suits me. Our CEO Jochen Klösges was recently at a political event here in Berlin. In the evening he invited us for a spontaneous sundowner, to get to know us better and talk to us in an informal setting. This approachability across all divisions, locations and hierarchical levels is, in my view, typical of Aareal Bank.