More start-ups than in 2019 Sparkasse Köln-Bonn wants to give more support to the self-employed

Bonn · Sparkasse Köln-Bonn sees opportunities and a growing interest in qualified people wanting to set up a company, especially in the crisis. The credit volume is growing by one billion to more than 13 billion Euro.

 The Sparkasse Köln-Bonn sees increased interest from business start-ups in the region. Photo: picture alliance / dpa/Oliver Berg

The Sparkasse Köln-Bonn sees increased interest from business start-ups in the region. Photo: picture alliance / dpa/Oliver Berg

Foto: picture alliance / dpa/Oliver Berg

In April, Uwe Borges moved from Brandenburg to Cologne as the Savings Bank Board Member responsible for business with corporate customers. Perhaps that is one reason why the 57-year-old still likes to look in the direction of the Spree. With its commitment to the Cologne and Bonn start-up scene, Sparkasse Köln-Bonn wants to "get up steam in Berlin", says Borges in a video clip with journalists. In addition to the capital, both cities are to become Germany's founding metropolis.

The conditions are good despite the corona crisis, observes the municipal financial institution. This year, the Gründer-Center has already provided a loan volume of 550 start-ups, which is ten percent more than in 2019. 550 new jobs were created last year, and by mid-November 2020, more than 800 jobs had been created, mainly in the service sector, reports Gründer-Center director Andreas Brünjes. These are not start-ups out of necessity. Rather, the crisis offers many young entrepreneurs strategic advantages. "There are shop premises available in top locations that a founder would only have dreamed of in the past," explains Brünjes. Hygiene concepts can be planned at the same time and low turnover expectations can be quickly exceeded once the restrictions are over. Even a start without financial burdens from the past offers elbow room compared to companies established on the market. Many sectors such as the food trade or most tradesmen have hardly suffered from the crisis or, like the entire IT sector, have even benefited significantly from it.

New venture capital fund

The Gründer-Center with three locations in the city of Cologne, in Deutz and in Bonn sees itself as a management consultancy for newcomers with associated financial services. However, Borges admits that it has not yet been involved in the phase before the first secure contract. This gap is now to be filled by a venture capital fund which Sparkasse Köln-Bonn, its sister institutions in Düsseldorf and Kreissparkasse Köln have set up together with the state. 30 million Euro of investor money has already been paid in.

For one year now, the Sparkasse has been providing further assistance to all smaller companies with annual sales of between 50,000 and half a million Euro. In December 2019, just in time for the start of the pandemic, it founded its business centre. Instead of having an all-rounder in the responsible branch office, the centre handles enquiries from this customer group by telephone or e-mail from two locations in Cologne and Bonn. Most customers did not want to act online, but to settle their affairs over the phone, Borges explains this offer.

In the Business Centre, a consultant can be reached within 20 seconds in 80 percent of cases from Monday to Friday between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., according to Frank Klingsporn, the head of the Business Centre, who takes initial stock. 60,000 mails and 100,000 calls have been processed and 20,000 companies have been served. The focus was on opening accounts and business loans. Such transactions are now completed within minutes and the documents are sent to the customers' electronic mailbox. Video authentication via a service provider replaces the personal visit to the branch.

Liquidity support via KfW

"We want to grow in the business customer segment," emphasises Uwe Borges. For this reason, the savings bank now also offers larger companies with sales of up to 2.5 million Euro service processing via the business centre. The credit volume will thus increase by one billion to more than 13 billion Euro this year. New business had grown by two billion Euro by October. However, this figure includes corona liquidity assistance from the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) in the amount of around 600 million Euro, which the savings bank has issued as loans.

In order to promote the economic structure with many solo entrepreneurs and family businesses, Sparkasse Köln-Bonn in Cologne supports the new Veedel umbrella organisation not only as an important sponsor. Each of the 60 Veedel will have a corporate customer advisor to advise them. Borges said that in Bonn talks were being held with the trade associations in Bad Godesberg, Beuel, Duisdorf and the City for a similar project.

Original text: Martin Wein. Translation: Mareike Graepel

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