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“The only thing I miss in Frankfurt are the crispy croissants”

KfW and AFD have been exchanging staff for many years

Portait of Michaela Schütte (KfW)
Michaela Schütte (KfW)

The proximity and close cooperation between KfW Development Bank and the French AFD is also reflected in their personnel policy: since 1994, the two institutions have been exchanging staff who work in the respective partner bank for about two years. They learn about the working methods of the other bank and establish professional and personal contacts, which later facilitate cooperation. So far, nine French staff have worked at KfW and eleven German KfW employees in Paris.

Michaela Schütte, team leader at KfW Development Bank, has been working for AFD in Paris since September 2017. Shortly after she started working, she realised how important and significant Franco-German cooperation is. “Rémy Rioux, the chief executive officer of AFD, mentioned the cooperation with KfW four times in a speech,” reports Schütte. The close cooperation is also evident in their day-to-day work: “KfW and AFD consult with one another on a lot of issues, especially strategic issues and within the EU”. The two organisations have intensive ties and draw on their long-standing personal and professional relationships on a daily basis.

Portrait of Nathalie Varhelyi (AFD)
Nathalie Varhelyi (AFD)

This is confirmed by Nathalie Varhelyi, who has had her office at KfW in Frankfurt since September 2018, after briefly serving as a trainee at KfW and then working as a Country Manager in various departments of AFD: “KfW and AFD have always been very similar in terms of processes and 'development spirit', some teams engage in dialogue almost daily.”

This is also an impression shared by Philippe Michaud, who was with KfW from 2015 to 2018. He has worked for AFD for 27 years and has worked in Madagascar, Algeria and Cameroon, and served as Director of the Guinea office. He was also responsible for EU issues at KfW. “In Brussels, AFD and KfW represent very similar common interests and strategic goals, for example in terms of climate financing, sustainability or the promotion of renewable energy,” he explains. Both development institutions also attach great importance to assessing how successful their projects are.

A French colleague from the AFD evaluation department was therefore invited to Frankfurt: Florent Bédécarrats shared experiences from areas in which KfW's independent Financial Cooperation Evaluation Unit plans to position itself more strongly. Digital sources like satellite data and published household surveys were to be increasingly used in evaluations with his support. “This type of data has already been used systematically at AFD for several years to measure impacts,” says Bédécarrats.

In return, KfW colleague Thomas Gietzen supported the AFD evaluation department. Among other things, he introduced the KfW practice that colleagues from operational areas who otherwise plan and manage projects work temporarily in the evaluation department. A process that AFD wanted to learn more about to encourage a culture of evaluation and offer project managers a different perspective on projects in their sector.

Portrait of Philippe Michaud (AFD)
Philippe Michaud (AFD)

In addition to this professional dialogue, personal contacts and experience also play an important role. “Seeing KfW from the outside is always helpful. In addition, the contacts I made with very nice colleagues at AFD will remain,” says Isabelle Steimer, who worked for KfW at AFD from 2014 to 2017.

Nathalie Varhelyi has settled in well in Frankfurt am Main, which is much more family-friendly and greener than Paris: “I enjoy the Taunus Mountains, the quality of life, the work-life balance. A lot is discussed over lunch at KfW, which even makes some meetings unnecessary, that's German efficiency.”

Philippe Michaud, however, was missing an essential detail in Frankfurt: “The croissants here are simply not baked to be as crispy as they are in Paris.”