Until the end of the last decade, German banking and corporate governance and the financial system as a whole were characterized by a remarkable degree of stability. The most important characteristics of the German financial system were bank dominance of the entire financial sector, a strong role of not strictly profit-oriented banks and a stakeholder oriented and insider controlled corporate governance regime. In looking at the German financial system as it used to be, one can easily recognize that it constituted a well-balanced system, as the authors show in section III. However, the past seven to ten years have witnessed an array of changes in the legal, financial and business environment of German banks and corporations and in the financial system as a whole. Most notably, the role of public banks and the stakeholder orientation of the corporate governance system have come under pressure, and the possible demise of these elements may imply a fundamental transformation of the entire German financial system. These developments are described and analyzed in section IV. One way of explaining the former stability of the German financial systems is to point out that its main elements were complementary to each other and also consistent. Recent developments, most notably a change in the behavior and the strategy of Germany's large private banks, have already undermined this systemic consistency. Considerations pertaining to the systemic character may also shape the process of a possible transformation. As the authors argue in the concluding section of their paper, it is precisely because of the importance of complementarity, that this possible transformation might not be a gradual process but rather abrupt and possibly also painful and that it might even lead to the adoption of an economically inferior financial system.
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