Early Foundations and Growth

The history of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange (Frankfurter Wertpapierbörse) is a captivating narrative intertwined with the economic tapestry of Germany. Rooted in the late 16th century, it proudly stands as one of the world’s oldest stock exchanges.

Fairs, coins, and bills of exchange

The origins of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange trace back to medieval fairs, with the autumn fair dating as far back as 1150. These fairs, evolving from harvest gatherings, burgeoned into vital centers for commerce and monetary transactions. In 1585, amidst the bustling fair, merchants convened to establish uniform exchange rates, marking the birth of the Frankfurt exchange. This pivotal moment aimed to counter the challenges posed by diverse currencies, fostering a foundation for the exchange’s future.

Patricians, princes, and commodity markets

The 18th century witnessed the initiation of trading in promissory notes and bonds, broadening the market to non-merchants. In 1808, the Chamber of Commerce emerged from the merchants’ representatives, transforming the stock exchange into a public-sector institution. The 19th century saw Frankfurt’s ascent into an international financial hub, particularly with the advent of Bankhaus Rothschild.

Despite initial coolness toward shares, Frankfurt’s specialization in secure government bonds earned it the moniker “solid Frankfurt.”

The late 19th century posed challenges from Berlin’s stock exchange dominance. Frankfurt responded by diversifying its economic policy, attracting industry, and intensifying share trading. The Stock Exchange Act of 1896 and the formation of a nationwide arrangement in 1899 marked a pivotal shift.

Wars, reconstruction, the computer age, and cross-border growth

World War I dealt a severe blow to the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, leading to the loss of international standing. Post-war, inflation and the 1929 stock market crash cast shadows, but the exchange gradually regained prominence post-World War II. In 1949, after the currency reform, the Frankfurt Stock Exchange officially resumed trading under the U.S. military government’s patronage.

The 1950s and 1960s witnessed Frankfurt’s resurgence as a capital intermediary, contributing to the German “economic miracle.” Technological advancements in 1969 brought electronic processing of securities transactions, and the 1970s saw the foundation of Börsen-Daten-Zentrale GmbH (BDZ) and Deutscher Auslandskassenverein AG.

Into the 21st Century

The Frankfurt Stock Exchange’s journey continued with the introduction of the DAX in 1988, solidifying its position in global markets. The 1990s brought internationalization and the revolutionary Xetra system in 1997. The merger with Deutsche Terminbörse in 1999 formed Deutsche Börse AG, elevating Frankfurt’s status.

Innovations like the 2017 launch of Scale for SMEs showcased Frankfurt’s commitment to adaptability. Ongoing efforts in the 2020s, including digitalization and regulatory enhancements, underscore the exchange’s dedication to staying at the forefront of financial markets.

From medieval fairs to digital frontiers, the Frankfurt Stock Exchange has been a resilient force shaping Germany’s financial landscape. Its narrative reflects not just economic shifts but a commitment to innovation, making it a symbol of Germany’s financial prowess on the global stage. As the exchange continues to evolve, it remains a cornerstone in the ever-changing mosaic of international finance.

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