Zweite Sparkasse: The Republic of Austria honours 10 years of voluntary engagement for people in financial distress
Evelyn Hayden and Gerhard Ruprecht, founding board members of the “bank for the unbankable”, have been awarded the Decoration of Honour in Gold for Services to the Republic of Austria in recognition of their outstanding personal commitment. They accepted the award on behalf of all voluntary staff members of Zweite Sparkasse across Austria.
The first branch office of Zweite Sparkasse opened its doors in Vienna on 4 October 2006. 350 voluntary staff members throughout Austria have since set up accounts for more than 16,000 people who wouldn’t have access to an account with any other bank. More than 3,500 people have overcome their financial crises during this period and were able to leave Zweite Sparkasse and open an account with another bank. Currently, there are 8,000 customers, more than half of whom are from Vienna.
Austria’s most successful social banking project was made possible by two people in particular. Evelyn Hayden (chairwoman) and Gerhard Ruprecht (board member) have managed this exceptional savings bank since its inception. Like all other staff members of Zweite Sparkasse they work on a voluntary basis. To this day Zweite Sparkasse does not incur any personnel costs. The Decoration of Honour in Gold for Services to the Republic of Austria is awarded by the Federal President. It was presented to the two managing board members by Minister of Finance Hans Jörg Schelling during a ceremony held at the Federal Ministry of Finance on 19 June 2017.
Andreas Treichl, CEO of Erste Group and chairman of the Sparkassenrat (Supervisory Board) of Zweite Sparkasse, is very pleased about the award: “Die Zweite Sparkasse pursues the founding idea of the Austrian savings banks, which have been combating poverty and social exclusion for almost 200 years by helping people to become financially independent. The awardees accept the Decoration in Gold on behalf of all voluntary staff members, including both current and retired staff members of Erste Bank and the Savings Banks.”
The two voluntary board members have shown great personal commitment and rendered outstanding services to the unique project from the very beginning, said Treichl. “Alongside their full-time responsibility as senior managers at Erste Bank, they have attended to the organisational setup and development of Zweite Sparkasse and acted as role models and motivation to staff members,” Treichl added. They have succeeded in organising the savings bank’s operation with exclusively voluntary staff members. They have continuously developed new products and services, from limited basic accounts to assisted accounts and financial literacy courses.
Long before the introduction of a new law ensuring access to basic payment accounts to everyone (2016), Zweite Sparkasse took on the important socio-political task of offering new prospects to people with serious financial difficulties, providing them with a realistic chance of bringing their economic and financial problems under control. With Zweite Sparkasse, Evelyn Hayden and Gerhard Ruprecht – who have been supported by Günter Benischek as a third board member since 2013 – have raised public awareness of the “involuntary lack of access to an account” in Austria, also presenting their successful model at European level. In the end Zweite Sparkasse has also played its part in enabling a EU-wide right for all citizens to hold an account.
For years Zweite Sparkasse has also played an active role in debt prevention. There are workshops, in particular with young people, on “how to handle money” as well as training sessions for asylum seekers and refugees on debt traps and how to deal with banks and money in Austria.
In total, Zweite Sparkasse operates seven branch offices: in addition to Vienna, there are offices in Innsbruck, Salzburg, Graz, Klagenfurt, Villach and Linz. Correspondence savings banks attend to customers in Burgenland, Lower Austria and Upper Austria. Except for Vorarlberg, Zweite Sparkasse is represented all over Austria.
For more Information visit: www.zweitesparkasse.at