The history of ABS began in the 1980s. A time that in my memory was marked by events such as the dying of the forest, the anti-nuclear movement and the peace movement. Of the Cold War between East and West, of theBerlin Wall that was considered insurmountable. The spectre of HIV/AIDS – the disease was fatal – and the struggle of women for more rights, which culminated in the first women's strike. Our founders came from political and church backgrounds, from nature and environmental protection, from development cooperation and the women's movement. They wanted to create a bank that was different from others. One that does not do business with potentates and offers hand to tax evasion and money laundering. A bank dedicated to the common good and renouncing profit maximization. A real alternative that finally opened its doors at the end of October 1990.
In the 1990s, the primary goal was to make ABS fly as a company. The bank made its first profit in just three years. The original concept was to handle payments through the post office. ABS should only offer savings accounts and medium-term notes. But from 1997, it expanded its product range. New camePayment transaction accounts and with the EC card also the – at that time not uncontroversial – "plastic money" added.
The success of ABS continued and in 2000 a dividend was paid out for the first time. In this phase the bank grew strongly. Services such as the ABS mortgage were created, on which interest discounts were granted for especially social and ecological properties. After intense discussions about whether investing in securities fits with ABS's ethics, the bank built its own investment advisory service. During this time, the ABS joined the Esprit network. It did not have to finance the necessary IT projects itself and was able, for example, to offer its own e-banking service. In 2008, the financial and economic crisis shook up the global banking and economic system. ABS's business model proved to be crisis resistant.
In the 2010s, ABS started with the goal of strengthening its equity base and launched a major equity campaign to achieve this goal. A success story that continues to this day: ABS's own funds foundation is more stable than ever before. Towards the end of the 2010s, three other important events took place: ABS launched online account opening, becoming even more accessible than before. It has taken a step beyond its national borders and has since acquired stakes in value-related banks abroad. And finally, it launched its first own investment fund, which has met with a great response thanks to its strict sustainability criteria.
Much has changed in the last 30 years. What has remained are the values that have been deeply rooted in ABS since its founding: a consistent focus on social and environmental sustainability, a rejection of profit maximization and the goal of contributing to a world worth living in. At the same time, the bank has proven that sustainable banking can be economically successful. I am proud of what the employees have built up together over the past three decades. The exemplary nature of ABS today has an impact far beyond its traditional circles. ABS has set important signals, be it in the areas of ecology and sustainability, equality and participation, or in general, with regard to transparency in the banking business. I hope that many other banks will be inspired by this change.