Wealthy people become philanthropists to get attention

Philanthropy Advisor: "I don't want to trade with them"


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He brings cake to the meeting - how fitting: Creating a good atmosphere for discussion is an essential part of his job. Andreas Schiemenz, 61, has just started his own business as a philanthropy consultant. His job can be described as follows: He develops ideas with rich people about what kind of social commitment suits them best. He has dealt with wealthy people his entire professional life. He worked as a fundraiser for the Accident Aid of the Order of St. John and tried to raise as many donations as possible. Then he built up the philanthropy and foundations division at HSH Nordbank and headed asset management for some time. Hardly anyone has a better insight into the closed society of the Hamburg rich than him.

THE TIME: Mr. Schiemenz, what is your relationship with the wealthy?

Andreas Schiemenz: A very distant one. During my time at Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe I learned: Either you belong to the wealthy or you don't belong - and then you shouldn't pretend. There were many high nobility in the leadership of the order. They were very courteous towards us, the non-aristocrats, greeted women with kisses on the hand and paid attention to etiquette. Some of my colleagues misunderstood this: They behaved like knights and also kissed the hand. The nobles reacted coldly to this.

TIME: Surely it must have been tempting for you too to belong to the higher society.

Andreas Schiemenz

was born in 1960 near Hanover. He studied economics, law and sociology in Hamburg, moved to Berlin in 1998, where he was responsible for fundraising at Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe. Back in Hamburg, he advised the wealthy for the former HSH Nordbank AG from 2011. He then became a partner in a strategy consultancy for social engagement. Schiemenz has been running the first German family office for philanthropy, Sinngeber gGmbH, since the beginning of 2021.

Schiemenz: No. That may be because of my story. As far as I can trace, my family is one of servants. In the village where I grew up, we were the socially disadvantaged. My mother cleaned, and my father didn't have a very recognized job either. For my birthday they gave me books by Erich Kästner, which they had to save on, and my mother pounded a sentence into me: Andreas, money doesn't make you happy. I grew up with this belief. For me, having money has never been an attribute from which I deduce that a person deserves special attention. That helped me in my job. I knew: No matter how the gentlemen behave towards me, no matter what palace I'm sitting in, no matter how I am courted - this is their world, not mine. And I don't want to trade with them.


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TIME: Why did this attitude help you? Don't you want to be flattered the rich you advise?

Schiemenz: On the contrary. In my experience, they are happy when someone comes who knows what they want and clearly knows their role. When I left the Johannitern, I moved to Hamburg and started at HSH Nordbank. There I was always suspicious that a large part of the bankers who managed the assets of the Springers or Tamms of this world wanted to behave like the rich. They bought a sports car, played golf, and thought about a holiday home on Sylt. They were at the same events, always with the reason that they wanted to be close to their customers. But I firmly believe that a wealthy person doesn't want to talk to me about the best way to feed the polo pony. Or whether I'll send my children to Eton or Harvard.

TIME: You still have to gain access to this closed world. Isn't that easier if you find out about the hobbies of the wealthy in advance, for example, and start a conversation with them about football or horse racing?

Schiemenz: I never understood this concept.

TIME: Not interested in the people you want to advise?

Schiemenz: Yes, but I'm not interested in her hobbies, football or small talk.

TIME: Then what are you interested in?

Schiemenz: Today, as I work as an independent consultant for the wealthy, I am only interested in my job: I want to understand my counterpart in how they would like to get involved socially. For what good cause he or she would like to donate a considerable part of the assets. My interlocutors have my respect because they are people and not because they are rich. This eye level is important to me. I often get this mirrored when wealthy people tell me: Mr. Schiemenz, you are the only one who doesn't pretend I'm an incredibly exciting person. You're the only one who honestly says what interests him.

TIME: What do you know about the person you are talking to before the first conversation?

Schiemenz: You can google a lot about rich people. However, you will only find out whether all of this is correct at a meeting. Is Klaus-Michael Kühne grumpy as to how to read about him? May be. But it can also be that he is an open-minded man who gets up twice and goes to the kitchen to put on the tea.