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Merkel chooses Weidmann to lead Bundesbank

He's just 42 years old and hardly known to the public, but Jens Weidmann's polished career and connections will put him at the helm of the German central bank in April. Critics say he's too close to Angela Merkel.

Jens Weidmann

Weidmann will have to face the public spotlight in his new job

The German central bank in Frankfurt, the Bundesbank, is getting a new boss in the form of 42-year-old Jens Weidmann - known in economic circles for his groomed career and his closeness to Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In April Weidmann will replace outgoing Bundesbank president Axel Weber, who decided to forego a shot at replacing Jean-Claude Trichet as head of the European Central Bank amid reported tensions between himself and Chancellor Merkel. Speculation about Weidmann's appointment began when he was granted a seat on the central bank board in January.

Despite the fact that Weidmann has had the Chancellor's ear for nearly five years, the man himself remains elusive. Few pictures of him circulate in public, and he doesn't give interviews.That will change with his new post.

Holger Schmieding, chief economist of Berenberg Bank in Hamburg, said Weidmann "combines a solid background in economics with first-hand experience in containing severe financial crises in Europe."

Sent by Merkel

Axel Weber

Axel Weber was once Weidmann's professor

Some observers point out the fact that a person little-known to the public made his way to the forefront of Germany's banking establishment by way of connection to Merkel could lead to potential political conflict. As president of the Bundesbank, Weidmann will have to evaluate policies and laws he helped write in Berlin.

"Anyone who knows Jens Weidmann knows that has excellent professional skills, a brilliant intellect and that he has an independent mind," Merkel told reporters, apparently responding to such concerns.

Weidmann's reputation in finance circles is excellent. After completing his secondary education in 1987, he studied in Paris and Bonn. One of his professors was the man he is now replacing: Axel Weber, who reportedly found Weidmann possessed a formidable understanding of economic theory along with a faculty for practical thinking.

As a student, Weidmann gathered his first experiences at the Banque de France and the Rwandan central bank. In 1997, he started a two-year stint at the International Monetary Fund. Six years later he was named General Secretary of the prestigious German Council of Economic Experts. And from 2003 to 2006 he headed the German central bank's department for currency policy and monetary analysis.

Weidmann found his way into the public spotlight for the first time in 2009, when Chancellor Merkel charged him with making preparations for the G8 and G20 summits. He was dubbed "Super-Sherpa" by the German press at the time for his figurative role in "carrying the baggage and equipment" to the summit.

Behind the scenes

Symbolic picture of euro coins

Weidmann has been credited with helping Germany to get through the financial crisis

Germany has come through the global financial crisis significantly less bruised than many other nations, and Weidmann certainly deserves some of the credit. He became Merkel's most important financial advisor in 2006, and became known in Berlin's somber financial world as the one who "whispered" in her ear during the crisis.

While Merkel and Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück are known to the public for the leadership they provided during the recession, Weidmann was active behind the scenes all along.

Weidmann's wife and two children live in the Frankfurt area, and his new appointment will put an end to his days of commuting between Berlin and Frankfurt.

Author: Dirk Kaufmann (gps)
Editor: Sam Edmonds

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