Pride comes before the fall

Deutsche Telekom – German Telecom – has had several stock offerings. Its first in 1996 was accompanied by a carefully orchestrated marketing campaign which was a huge success.

People who had never owned stocks flocked to the T-Aktie, to T-Shares. The Aktieneuphorie – stock market euphoria – in Germany lasted for several years.

The share price at the first offering was 28.50 DM (14.57 Euros), at the second 39.50 Euros, then 66.50 Euros. On March 6, 2000 the T-Aktie hit its highpoint of 103.50 Euros. 

From there it was all downhill. On September 30, 2002 it was at 8.42 Euros. At the beginning of 2015 it just about at 16 Euros.

Shareholders sued Deutsche Telekom in 2008 in Frankfurt. Their claim was that Deutsche Telekom misinformed them about the true value of the company’s real estate holdings, as well as other incorrect statements in their financial statements.

Over 17,000 shareholders demanded roughly 80 million Euros in damages. The court case focused on whether the shareholders were sufficiently informed about the level of risk.

The marketing hype of the T-Aktie was criticized by the shareholders after the fact. “Such marketing campaigns are not appropriate for selling stocks. This isn’t laundry detergent, not toothpaste,” said Jürgen Kurz, head of the German Society for the Protection of Securities Holders. “People should buy stocks in companies, but they should be informed about the risk they are taking.”

The Süddeutsche Zeitung – one of Germany’s leading newspapers located in Munich – wrote at the end of 2014: “The T-Aktie is not just any old stock. It’s a symbol. It made Germans hungry to invest in stocks, and then killed that appetite for years to come. The investors felt cheated, tricked. Unrequited love. Today only half as many Germans hold stocks as in 2000.”

Intuition

Intuition. Latin intuitio: immediate understanding, recognition, seeing; to understand a situation, problem, dilemma immediately and without discussion or reflection. “Dein Verlangen nach Intuition blockiert den natürlichen Fluss der Wahrnehmung.” Your desire to be intuitive blocks the natural flow of perception. (Irina Rauthmann, German writer)

“Intuition, sprunghafte Einsicht, deren Schritte nachzuholen sind.” Intuition, sudden and erratic understanding whose steps need to be retaken. (Dr. phil. Manfred Hinrich, German philosopher, professor, journalist, author of childrens books)

“Intuition ist der natürliche Gegenpol zur Konzentration – nutzen sollte man beides, jedes zu seiner Zeit.” Intuition is the natural opposite of concentration. Both should be used, but at the right time. (Rüdiger Keßler, German philosopher)

“Intuition ist Intelligenz mit überhöhter Geschwindigkeit.” Intuition is high speed intelligence. Unknown.

External Expertise

Germans often involve external experts, who have a broader Überblick, in a critical decision making process. As a neutral party they can ensure that the most current analytical techniques are employed, thus minimizing the risk of errors causing serious harm. Even those Germans confident in their ability to execute a critical decision making process will refer time and again to the highest standards in their industry.

Expertise. Analysis performed by a neutral expert. Deep subject area knowledge. “She is considered one of the finest experts her field.”

The Germans believe that truly objective criteria and analytical approaches exist, that they can be identified and used. Germans constantly work towards objectivity. For them analysis can only be of value if objective.

Standards. English standard: something which is considered to be the best in its kind, a model, an example; the quality against which all is compared, measured; norm, measure, a plumb line.

Some of the highest standards for hygiene, for example, are found in German hospitals, restaurants and hotels. To receive several stars requires meeting those standards.

There are labels and awards for almost all products in Germany: Fair trade labels for products from the southern hemisphere; ecology labels for organic foods; safety labels for mechanical and electrical products used in the home or the workplace. All are based on norms and guidelines.

Stringency

Analysis. Latin analysis, Greek análysis: to pull apart, dissolve into parts; to study something by taking it apart and considering its individual components; investigation into the particulars of a whole.

Analytical thinking is in those professions critical where a system is understood via its parts. A psychoanalyst pulls apart the patient’s past experiences. The financial analyst considers the entire spectrum of transactions in order to get into the details of specific market movements. Police investigative work, all approaches in medicine, every type of research and development must employ sophisticated methods of analysis.

Stringent. Latin stringens: strict; convincing based on logical arguments; logical, clear, without internal contradiction.

Stringent analytical methods are particularly important in the academic fields, whether the natural sciences, engineering sciences, economics or the humanities. Master’s or Ph.D. theses in Germany are not accepted without meeting high standards of analytical stringency. All professions based on deep analysis depend on stringent methods.

Penetranz. Penetration: Latin penetrare: to place into; to enter into, get into, to move in a certain direction.

To be penetrating has a negative connotation in Germany: overly direct, bearing in on a point, intense. A certain perfume can be too penetrant. A person who dominates a conversation, making long speeches and moralizing is penetrant.

In the positive sense penetrant means dogged, focused, determined, working to understand something at as deep a level as possible. Like an archeologist who digs deeper, forever searching for evidence, for insight into the lives of our human ancestors. The same goes for analysts of any kind, for the medical profession, for linguists, historians and research in all of its forms.

Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890) comes to mind, the German archeologist who discovered the ancient cities of Troja and Mykenes. Many years of painstaking research led to archeological and historical proof that these two cities had in fact existed.

Rational / Personal

On the one side, the Germans strive hard to be objective, to reduce, even eliminate the subjective.

Rational, logical, scientific. Filtering, screening, separating fact from gut feel, from intuition.

Communication: Say what you mean, mean what you say. Honest. Not meant personally. Persuasion: Separate message and messenger. Take yourself out of the equation. Decision making: Sober, scientific, self-skeptical. Feedback: The focus on weaknesses as authentically constructive input. Processes: Stripping down, compressing to the core, machine-like.

Yet, the Germans are personal, emotional, subjective.

Agreements: Think it through carefully. Your word is your bond.

Leadership: Hire talent. Train and equip. State mission. Then get out of the way. Product: Deep curiosity and concern for the user. Do it right. Customer: Do what is best for the customer, even if it jeopardizes the relationship.

Germans. Objective subjective. Rational personal. Perhaps a false dichotomy.

Avoid gut-based decisions

When it comes to decision making Germans expect one to describe the process, methods and tools employed to do the analysis. Germans seek scientific objectivity and avoid “gut-based” approaches to making decisions. From their point of view, the results of analysis are only as good, as reliable, as convincing, as the process/method/tools you used to arrive at them.

Imprint