1928: Banca Commerciale Italiana (BCI) representative office opened in Berlin.
1951: BCI representative office opened in Frankfurt.
1951: Banco di Napoli (BN) representative office opened in Frankfurt.
1961: Istituto Bancario San Paolo (IBSP) representative office opened in Frankfurt.
1972: Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze representative office opened in Frankfurt.
1975: BCI representative office re-opened in East Berlin.
1978: Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde (CARIPLO) representative office opened in Frankfurt.
1980: IBSP branch opened in Frankfurt.
1982: BN representative office in Frankfurt transformed into a branch.
1983: Istituto Mobiliare Italiano (IMI) representative office opened in Frankfurt.
1985: Banca di Trento e Bolzano (BTB) representative office opened in Munich.
1986: IBSP loan production office opened in Düsseldorf.
1986: IBSP branch opened in Munich.
1987: BCI representative office opened in Munich.
1988: BCI representative office in Frankfurt transformed into a branch.
1989: CARIPLO representative office opened in Frankfurt.
1989: Stake in Bankhaus Löbbecke acquired by CARIPLO.
1991: Cassa di Risparmio di Padova e Rovigo representative office opened in Munich.
1991: IBSP loan production office opened in Stuttgart.
1991: BCI loan production office opened in Stuttgart.
1992: IBSP loan production office opened in Berlin.
1992: BCI branch opened in Munich.
1993: BCI loan production office opened in Düsseldorf.
The ties between Banca Commerciale Italiana (BCI) and Germany were historically very strong. Indeed, the bank was founded in 1894 with capital from German as well as Swiss and Austrian banks, with Germany's leading role in its creation leading to BCI's being reviled in 1914-15 as "Italy's German bank", accused of doing that country's bidding in the Bel Paese. In reality, though, the German stake in BCI had decreased sharply in the years immediately after its foundation, with the percentage of Austrian-German capital in the bank falling from 74% in 1895 to 2.4% by the time World War I broke out. BCI's process of "Italianization" would go on to involve the further entry of Swiss, French and above all Italian shareholders.
The bank's special relationship with Germany enabled it to cultivate economic and trade relations with that country as it helped develop and consolidate the Italian manufacturing sector through investments. Put on hold during World War I, the relationship resumed in 1928 with the creation of a representative office in Berlin directed by Guido Ansbacher. Its objective was to expand BCI's business ventures in Germany, handling relations with its German customers as well as with local financial institutions. The office was closed in 1945.
The "Two Germanys"
The division of Germany into two separate republics and the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 made it difficult for Italian banks to establish a presence in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). Thanks to BCI's historic ties and longstanding relationships in the country, however, in 1975 it finally received authorization to set up a representative office in East Berlin which would continue to operate until 1999.
Establishing a presence in the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), Italy's most important trade partner in terms of both import and export, was much easier. Numerous representative offices and branches were set up in Frankfurt, the country's most important financial center and home of the Deutsche Bundesbank, the stock exchange, and leading German and foreign banks: BCI opened a representative office in 1951 (it would be transformed into a branch in 1988), as did Banco di Napoli (BN) in the same year (it became a branch in 1982). Istituto Bancario San Paolo (IBSP) followed suit in 1961, opening one of its first representative offices abroad, as did Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze in 1972 and CARIPLO in 1978 (the office was transformed into a branch in 1989). In 1983, as part of its plan to expand its international operations, Istituto Mobiliare Italiano (IMI) set up its own Frankfurt representative office in order to raise long-term fixed rate funds in West Germany to be used for export credit and special financing projects. The office was closed in 1988 and its operations were transferred to IMI's new affiliate, IMI Verwaltungs AG (later IMI Bank AG).
West Germany's second most important financial center was Munich, where numerous Italian banks set up premises, including a BCI representative office (created in 1987 and transformed into a branch in 1992) and branch offices for Banca di Trento e Bolzano (1985), IBSP (1986) and Cassa di Risparmio di Padova e Rovigo (1991). In 1989 Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde (CARIPLO), too, decided to open a representative office in the city; although the plan fell through, CARIPLO acquired a stake in the Berlin-based Bankhaus Löbbecke in that same year.
The loan production offices
In order to strengthen their networks in central Europe and support the work of their representative offices and foreign branches, several Italian banks decided to set up loan production offices in various cities around the world which they deemed strategic from an economic, industrial and commercial point of view. Düsseldorf and Stuttgart were the locations chosen in Germany for these field offices: IBSP opened one in each city, in 1986 and 1991, respectively (followed by Berlin in 1992), as did BCI in 1991 (Stuttgart) and 1993 (Düsseldorf).