The finance sector is a fast-paced, ever-changing industry dominated by influencers and thought leaders. While many people ‘make it’ on a small-time scale, attracting a solid following and maneuvering their way through the industry with expert precision, others leave a much more lasting impression. This Medium series from content marketing agency Contentworks will look at the most influential people in finance including what they’ve achieved and why they’re at the top of their game.
This article focuses on German politician Angela Merkel.
The Most Powerful Woman in the World
As the first female Chancellor of Germany and the former Secretary General of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Angela Merkel is no wallflower. Since she took the position of Chancellor back in 2005, she has learnt how to win and keep power in a traditionally male dominated environment and is currently one of the most successful living politicians today. She was listed as #1 on the Forbes Most Powerful Women List and, while admitting she won’t seek another term as Chancellor in 2021, Merkel has certainly made her mark in the political sphere.
Top Fact: Angela Merkel’s has a net worth of £8.5 million.
A Symbol of Fiscal Austerity
It’s fair to say that Merkel’s time as Chancellor hasn’t been all rainbows and roses. At 51, she became the youngest person to hold the office. As one of the most influential people in modern finance, she also led Germany through a euro-zone debt crisis championing austerity as the path to recovery, creating a ‘fiscal union’ with binding rules to enforce German-style budget discipline.
While protesters in countries such as Greece and Spain saw imposed fiscal austerity as a negative, many people in her home country saw her as a safe pair of hands in a time of need. This popularity was boosted by low unemployment and healthy exports that had continued for years.
Restoring Confidence in the Euro
Due to Germany’s economic power, the country was under great pressure to help lead Europe out of a continuing crisis. This saw Merkel tasked with handling the situation without raising the cost to German taxpayers and fueling inflation. While critics say her initial reluctance to resort to bailouts weakened the euro-zone’s credibility, Germany became the biggest paymaster for euro zone bailouts with many seeing Mrs Merkel as the driving force behind the EU’s efforts to restore confidence in the euro.
Unflappable Under Pressure
Merkel has faced many challenges head on, navigating coalition government challenges and spearheaded EU efforts to enact sanctions on Russia in an effort to restore peace during the Russian/Ukrainian conflict.
She also had to confront Europe’s gravest refugee crisis since World War II with thousands of unsettled immigrants flocking to the EU. While the announcement that Germany would keep its doors open to refugees was an unpopular decision to say the least, Merkel temporarily suspended the Schengen Agreement and reintroduced border controls with Austria in 2015. As over a million refugees entered Germany, Merkel’s party paid a steep political price with backlash against migrants intensifying.
Elsewhere, Brexit was occurring and Donald Trump had been named President, but the nationalist sentiment didn’t send Merkel running for the hills. Instead, she stood her ground, back chatted Trump and even announced that she would seek a fourth term. Put simply, the woman is renowned for her steely demeanour and is completely unflappable under pressure.
Merkel has always maintained composure which has led her to make monumental changes in Germany such as passing minimal wage and closing Germany’s nuclear power plants following the Fukishima explosion. So, what characteristics have contributed to her maintaining a high-power status?
Steely calculation and ruthlessness have undoubtedly kept Merkel at the top. She trained as a physicist in the Communist German Democratic Republic, and at age 35 seized her chance to begin a political ascent. When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, Merkel crossed from East to West Berlin and climbed the political mountain, even studying macho behaviour to succeed. Indeed, when Putin unleashed his black Labrador knowing she had once been bitten and was afraid of dogs, her face was an iron mask. “He needs to do this to prove he’s strong,” she later told her staff.
Top Fact: Angela Merkel doesn’t tweet but keeps a close eye on Trump.
Merkel’s support has dwindled over the years. But it is fair to say that patience has been at a main component of her leadership. Armed with maps and charts, she patiently explained to Trump, for instance, how many jobs German car manufacturers create in South Carolina, and why NATO is about shared values, determined to maintain Germany’s relationship with the United States.
Despite her net worth and power status, Merkel doesn’t crave the trappings of power. She doesn’t have luxuries such as a private jet or mansion. She’s shared the same apartment with her husband for decades and her native Brandenburg is no paparazzi magnet. During her term, Merkel has left little about her personal life for the press to explore, aside from recent health worries which caused concern after she was seen shaking during several public appearances.
Angela Merkel has seen herself knee-deep in financial decisions amid a finance crisis. She’s the most powerful woman in the world and will leave a lasting legacy.
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