The introduction of cashless wage payments and the spread of branch banking in post-war Germany

The period from the 1950s to the late 1970s saw an almost uniform decline of cash-to-GDP ratios in industrial countries. A closer look at the German payment system suggests that the factor causing such a change was a shift towards cashless wage payments. In this period, in Germany, the branch network of banks expanded significantly and at the end of the period almost all economically active individuals had a current account. This change was triggered by rising wages and income. Rising wages increased the burden of weekly wage payments in cash, and rising income made the average earner more attractive for banks. Moreover, regulation and deregulation, by triggering both price and non-price competition, may also have played a role. Technological change was not an independent driver. In the 1950s, the number of giro accounts per German adult was comparable to the current situation in many developing countries. Yet, the author argues that the German post-war experience does not provide a blueprint for most of these countries.

  • Date: 11/09/2017
  • Sector: Any
  • Topics: Digital technology, Inclusive finance, Sustainable enterprises, Workers' rights
  • Regions: Europe and Central Asia
  • Resource type: Publications
  • Institutions: Financial History Review