Julia Dingwort-Nusseck ©Bundesbank

First woman on Central Bank Council turns 100

The Central Bank Council of the Bank deutscher Länder and its successor authority, the Bundesbank, was almost exclusively a men’s-only club: from 1948 until it was replaced by the Executive Board in the aftermath of the structural reform in 2002, only one woman – Julia Dingwort-Nusseck – managed to become a member of this body. On this Wednesday, 6 October 2021, she celebrates her 100th birthday in Hamburg. She is the oldest ever former member of the Central Bank Council.

Career began in radio

Ms Dingwort-Nusseck’s tenure as a central banker was preceded by a career as a business journalist. She headed the editorial team for business broadcasting of the radio broadcasting service of Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) and later became deputy editor-in-chief of the Current Affairs/Television division before subsequently heading the business editorial office of NDR TV in Hamburg. In 1973, the mother of three assumed responsibility for Politics programming and became TV editor-in-chief at Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR).

Her trademark as a journalist was making economic interrelationships understandable to the general public. She says that listeners were grateful for her reportage, even though the intellectual bourgeoisie, or Bildungsbürgertum, had traditionally given economics short shrift. “Whenever the term ‘minimum reserves’ came up, people thought it meant the contents of their pantries, if anything,” was how Ms Dingwort-Nusseck described the gaps in knowledge prevalent at the time. 

Thanks to her profound knowledge of central banking topics, the State Premier of Lower Saxony at the time, Ernst Albrecht (whose daughter Ursula von der Leyen is now President of the European Commission), put forward the journalist’s name for the post of President of the Land Central Bank of Lower Saxony in 1976. 

First rejected, then welcomed unanimously

The Central Bank Council took a dim view of this proposal and voted against it, yet this did not stop Ms Dingwort-Nusseck’s appointment. Unfazed by this rejection, she rose to her tasks as President of the Land Central Bank of Lower Saxony. Eight years later she was nominated for a second term of office – and this time the Central Bank Council voted unanimously in her favour. 

During this term, the European Monetary System (EMS), a key step along the road to a single European currency, was launched in 1979. Looking ahead towards monetary union, Ms Dingwort-Nusseck was an advocate of the “coronation theory”, according to which a single currency should only come at the end, as the “coronation”, of a process of political unification in Europe. This was in contrast to the idea of introducing a single currency as early as possible for it to serve as a catalyst for further integration.

In an interview conducted by CNBC’s Annette Weisbach in 2016 as part of the Bundesbank’s Oral History series, Julia Dingwort-Nusseck stressed that “the true proponents of Europe supported the coronation theory”.

Closer to home in her institution’s jurisdiction of Lower Saxony, Ms Dingwort-Nusseck also sought to improve the Land Central Bank’s infrastructure, noting in that interview that all the buildings dated back to the Reichsbank era and were, in some cases, very old and not burglary-proof. As in her previous career in journalism, she was also committed to communicating economics topics clearly. “I travelled the country like an itinerant preacher,” was how she described her activities. She talked about meeting a great many personalities during her time in journalism and giving talks before people from many very different walks of life.

And even from an early time in her life, currency has held fond memories for her. In 1948, when an allowance of 40 Deutsche Marks (per person) was being issued during the currency reform (known as “per capita” money or Kopfgeld), she met her husband, with whom she remained, until his death, “happily married” for 60 years.