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Rede von Außenminister Frank-Walter Steinmeier zur Verabschiedung von Henning Kagermann als Vorstandssprecher der SAP AG (englisch)

19.05.2009 - Rede

Dear Professor Kagermann, dear SAP-founders and members of the SAP-family,

What an impressive sight! Thousands of workers saluting their CEO at his farewell after 10 years, here of their own free will! What a benchmark for politicians. I would be proud to have such admiration and support after 10 years as Chancellor.

But I am not here to talk about me and the election this September. This reception is for you, Mr. Kagermann. And it is inspiring in times like these to attend such an event. When Léo Apotheker asked me to personally say a few lines of appreciation today, I did not hesitate for a moment. I cannot think of a better opportunity to endorse the leadership model that you and I believe in. A leadership model you have come to personify in your time as CEO here. Success in business,uncompromisingly linked with living strong moral values. Ambitious for your company, but at the same time modest for yourself. And in these times of showmanship in business and, yes - politics too, it’s reassuring to see someone who knows what he is talking about. And only talks about what he knows. Mr. Kagermann, you are one of the best role models in the world for this leadership style. And that is why I am here to wholeheartedly thank you.

I attend many public events these days as you can imagine. A lot of people ask me: When you look ahead to the next decade, how should Germany, how should the world change? Personally, I believe we have much more than an economic crisis to resolve now. People have stopped trusting our economic system, its banks, its managers. They think that only the greedy are being rewarded, with mega bonuses and secret tax breaks. And now everyone else has to foot the bill. People think that capital markets only rewarded short-term profit, often at the expense of a sustainable business. I tend to agree. And so do many entrepreneurs and managers these days. When listening to them in private, it is hard to distinguish between union officials and company bosses. That gives me a lot of hope!

When I think of the next decade, I think of sustainable business models.Companies that have a strong ethical foundation without being naïve. And managers that live these values.

How can we get there? How can we regain the trust of the people for the market economy? Governments and international organizations can do a lot by redefining the terms of trade in financial markets. But let’s not fool ourselves: Credibility and trust is not something we politicians can create for you, the entrepreneurs. YOU have to lead the effort. And what could be more important than role models? Role models like you, Mr. Kagermann. Role models that represent the silent majority of businessmen and –women. Looking at the SAP-founders, role models are clearly a great SAP tradition.

It is the fate of a Foreign Minister to travel a lot. It fills me with pride to see Germany-based companies everywhere I go. „The best-run businesses run SAP“ is the slogan that greets me at every airport. Under your leadership, SAP was firmly established as a world-leader. As a politician I have started to hear that „best-run governments run SAP“ too – and that has a lot to do with Henning Kagermann. It is not hard to guess that governments may be good customers for SAP. But I appreciate the way you, Mr. Kagermann, have started to capture these markets. Not by just selling software. But by helping to re-think what modern governments could look like if they used IT properly. When I think about the next decade, I envision a service revolution in governments around the world. And I do hope that SAP will shape this market. In Germany, you already have.

You have personally shaped the IT-summits of the Federal Government. You have a rare gift of making IT relevant to decision-makers, many of whom are still struggling with their E-Mail. A number of decisions at our IT Summits have had great impact on how our country is being governed. We now have a Federal CIO. We have started to introduce „call 1-1-5“ – a central service number any citizen can call anywhere, anytime. This will redefine all major government processes! Mr. Kagermann, without your tireless, personal advocacy of modernizing government, all this would not be happening. That is what I call real impact!

With leaders like you I also have no problem being an extended part of your salesteam. Or „Eco-System“, as you prefer to call it. I have rewritten my job description. Not just Foreign Minister. But also Foreign Trade Minister. And why not? I am not ashamed of being an ambassador for German companies. I remember vividly how in a number of hectic telephone conversations with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, I was able to help secure the UN as an important client for you. I even made an unplanned stop-over on my way from South America to meet him. That was fun. And so cheap for you! No bonus needed for a Minister! Mr. Apotheker, as long as I am in office, you should never be afraid of picking up the phone when there is a chance I can help.

It comes as no surprise that many government- and business-leaders worldwide seek out Henning Kagermann’s advice. All prestigious business-publications have for many years confirmed you in the top of their rankings. You are a role model for business leaders. For the current decade – and for the next decade. I do hope you will play a vital role in re-establishing a business- and management culture based on values. A culture that will regain the trust and followership of our people. I believe you are one of the few who can make this happen. I can assure you: With me as Chancellor you will have a busy retirement schedule.

I understand that deep at heart you have always remained a scientist. Always curious, always probing hard… I hear you are passionate about mathematical puzzles. When thinking about a small token of appreciation I could give to you, I found something surprising. I found a book for you that I would not mind keeping for myself. It states the following: „Mathematical self-education for civil servants, businessmen and military personnel can overcome the current bad business in all industries.“ The author’s objective is: „To overcome the greed in society and the addiction for becoming too rich, too fast.“

Now, this may sound like my party’s political manifesto… But it’s not. It’s a mathematical puzzle in a book by an eminent German scientist - from 1891. Mr. Kagermann, I had no idea your discipline was capable of that. When you have solved the world crisis with the help of maths and this book, please call me immediately.

Now you look to your well-earned, but hopefully still active retirement. I wish you and your family the very best. And I wish every success to your other family, the SAP employees around the world who have made such great contributions to our economy.

Thank you – and keep going!

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