Who was Alfred Herrhausen?
Alfred Herrhausen was Spokesman of the Management Board of Deutsche Bank from May 1985 until his death in 1989. During that time especially, he extensively restructured and modernised the bank, giving it an international focus. Herrhausen was renowned across the world for being an insightful and fearless thinker, going far beyond national borders and calling for business enterprises to assume social responsibility. He was as passionate about supporting social causes as he was about developing business interests.
Herrhausen opposed all restrictions on free thought. Time and time again, he openly reflected on issues that only very few of his contemporaries broached. These ranged from debt relief for developing countries, transparency, working for the community, personal initiative and responsibility, right through to the question of how large organisations can remain open, authentic and dynamic. According to Herrhausen, we need the greatest possible degree of intellectual freedom and flexibility to face the uncertain future. He analysed the status quo relentlessly, all the time looking for ideas on how to shape the world to come. Herrhausen is quoted as saying: "Most time is lost because people do not think things through to the very end".
Alfred Herrhausen was born on 30 January 1930 in Essen, Germany. He studied Business and Economics at the University of Cologne, graduating in 1952. He earned his doctorate in 1955, submitting his thesis on “The Utilisation of Borders as an Element of the Marginal Principle (Grenznutzen als Bestandteil des Marginalprinzips)” to his tutor Karl Wessels.
By that time, Herrhausen had already been working as an executive assistant to management at the headquarters of Ruhrgas AG in Essen since 1952. In 1955, he moved on to Vereinigte Elektrizitätswerke Westfalen AG (VEW) in Dortmund, where he played a key role in its partial privatisation. In 1966, he assumed the role of CFO at VEW.
Herrhausen joined Deutsche Bank in 1969. On January 1, 1970, he was appointed deputy member of the Management Board, under the chairmanship of Friedrich Wilhelm Christians. One year later, he became a full member of the Management Board, responsible for the Americas, Australia/New Zealand and South Africa. He was also responsible for trade finance and macroeconomic matters.
Herrhausen became Spokesman of the Management Board of Deutsche Bank in May 1985. He shared this position with Christians until May 1988 after which he assumed sole responsibility. From then on, Herrhausen set the course for the bank's future. On November 30, 1989, Alfred Herrhausen was assassinated near his home in Bad Homburg. The killers were never caught.
Engraved in the two basalt pillars erected in his memory at the place of his death are the words of writer Ingeborg Bachmann "Die Wahrheit ist dem Menschen zumutbar" (People can handle the truth).