Long before we became a foundation and a strong partner of Non-Governmental Organisations in Europe, which was only in 2003, we were a social business ourselves. In 1819, some Viennese citizens founded a private association to enable access to common people to make provisions for the future and to provide a secure and independent livelihood for themselves and their families. It was run by dedicated volunteers in a poor neighbourhood. It was innovative and obviously sustainable. It was called ‘Erste oesterreichische Spar-Casse’ and was the ‘first Austrian savings bank’.
Today, after more than 190 years of successful development, this former ‘NGO’ has two successors: the operational one is Erste Group. The savings bank that opened in a parsonage in Vienna’s 2nd district turned into a retail banking group with subsidiaries not only in Austria but also in six other countries in Central and South Eastern Europe with 16,2 Million customers.
The legal successor is us: DIE ERSTE österreichische Spar-Casse Privatstiftung, in short ERSTE Stiftung (ERSTE Foundation). We inherited the private association that was once the hundred percent owner and founder of the savings bank. In 1997, the bank went public, then growing in Austria and expanding to the Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, the Slovak Republic, Serbia, Romania.
The very first savings book of Erste Österreichische Spar-Casse, issued 1819, belonged to a woman: Marie Schwarz.