Helping people help themselves: 2 years Die Zweite Sparkasse in Tirol

Bank accounts for persons with financial problems

Today many actions of everyday life demand a bank account. However, there are an estimated 40,000 people in Austria who do not hold bank accounts. Mostly through unemployment, divorce or illness, they have found themselves in social and/or economic difficulties and, eventually, have also lost access to banking services. With these people in mind, ERSTE Foundation founded a savings bank: Die Zweite Sparkasse. The bank offers current accounts with no overdraft facility to people who are in difficult straits. This is, however, just the first step in a long process of getting out of debt; to be entitled to such an account, customers must closely cooperate with welfare organisations such as Caritas and with debt counselling services.

Two years ago, on 14 September 2007, the first branch of Die Zweite Sparkasse opened its doors in an Austrian province – in Innsbruck, Tirol. Since that day Die Zweite Sparkasse in Innsbruck has supported, in close cooperation with Caritas Tirol and the debt counselling service, 550 persons on their way to regaining financial autonomy. The services of Die Zweite Sparkasse have been very well received; by taking over the responsibility of their payment liabilities the persons participating in the programme have good chances to regain control of their financial situation and, eventually, to open a bank account with a regular bank.

In Austria currently more than 4,500 persons are customers of Die Zweite Sparkasse’s 5 branches in Vienna, Innsbruck, Graz, Salzburg and Klagenfurt. They represent all age and educational groups; some 70 % of them are male. By the end of this year Die Zweite Sparkasse will expand its service to Upper Austria and Burgenland. In Carinthia an additional branch will be established in Klagenfurt.