Consolidation among European banks is inevitable and will accelerate as soon as the European Community begins using a single currency, a senior German banker said.
Albrecht Schmidt, chairman of Bayerische Vereinsbank AG, also predicted that consolidation will soon lead to the creation of pan- European banks just as mergers in the United States are producing nationwide banks.
"There still is no Europeanwide bank," Mr. Schmidt said last week during a luncheon briefing for members of the New York financial press. "But introduction of the euro will have as much impact as abolition of Glass- Steagall. It will change Europe more than anything else has in the postwar period."
In a speech Monday First Union Corp. chairman Edward E. Crutchfield said the consolidation of European banks and the advent of the euro would be preludes to possible alignments between U.S. and European banks. He said that U.S. and foreign banks will take minority stakes in each other but that outright mergers could follow.
Eleven member countries of the European Community are to begin using a single currency Jan. 1. Monetary policy for the single currency will be set by a European Central Bank, which is now being set up in Frankfurt.
Referring to a recent planned merger by two big Swiss banks, Union Bank of Switzerland and Swiss Bank Corp., Mr. Schmidt predicted that the "mergers are just the first step on a long road toward the transformation of the banking industry."
He noted that in 1970 there were 70 car producers worldwide, but that the total had shrunk to 30 by 1990 and 18 this year.
"There are differences with manufacturing, but the same thing will happen in the banking industry," Mr. Schmidt said.
Bayerische Vereinsbank, based in Munich, agreed last year to merge with another Bavarian bank, Bayerische Hypotheken and Wechsel-Bank AG. The merger would create Germany's second-biggest bank with a combined $500 billion of assets. Executives said the post-merger bank's strategy would be to expand across Europe in selected regions with selected products.
In the United States, Bayerische Vereinsbank will focus on areas such as project finance, asset-backed securities, trade finance, and capital markets for the U.S. subsidiaries of German companies. It will also work with U.S. companies that have operations in Germany.
Mr. Schmidt also suggested that his bank is unlikely to try to compete in global capital markets, pointing out that Deutsche Bank has recently scaled back its global capital market operations in favor of developing business in Europe.