Five years ago, on 4 October 2006, Die Zweite Sparkasse began operations and welcomed its first customers. The bank for people who no longer have access to banking services was founded with the capital of ERSTE Foundation, which also initiated this project. “Today, Die Zweite Sparkasse provides its services to 7,500 people in economically difficult situations all over Austria, giving them a new chance,” says Evelyn Hayden, Chairwoman of Die Zweite Sparkasse, as she looks back on five successful years.
“Without having an account people often have difficulties getting a job; they are charged hefty fees to pay their bills in cash and are unable to participate in modern financial life”, explains Boris Marte, Board Member and Managing Director of ERSTE Foundation. “It often takes several years for people to escape difficult economic situations. We see it as our job to be a partner for these people.”
Die Zweite Sparkasse’s formula for success is based on close cooperation with 23 partner organisations – including the debt counselling services, Caritas, and the private initiatives Wiener Hilfswerk, Dialog and Neustart, which advise and select potential customers before recommending them to the bank. “Our 430 voluntary staff members in particular are important pillars of our services: from the board member to the counsellor – at Die Zweite Sparkasse everyone works on a voluntary basis”, says Hayden. “Some of our staff offer their services at Die Zweite Sparkasse one or two evenings a month alongside their regular job at the bank; other staff, who are already in retirement, work up to 60 hours a month looking after our customers.”
And this commitment pays off: This year, we enabled around 200 people to transfer to a “normal” account”, says Hayden. “Die Zweite Sparkasse is probably the only bank that is happy about losing customers”, says Marte.
Raising public awareness of the obstacles and problems faced by those who do not have access to an account has been just as important as the active support provided to people in distress, stresses Andreas Treichl, Chairman of the Board of ERSTE Foundation. “Before Die Zweite Sparkasse existed, this was not an issue at all, yet it was a crucial factor that kept people trapped in poverty. Today, we are also discussing this issue at EU level and other banks have followed our example and started offering similar services.”
Today, Die Zweite Sparkasse operates seven branches in Vienna, Graz, Linz, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt and Villach. In addition, Erste Bank and the local savings banks in Lower Austria and Burgenland offer advisory services. Services provided by Die Zweite Sparkasse include a basic current account including a bank card.
In addition, Vienna Insurance Group offers various services, such as free accident insurance and legal advice. “When Die Zweite Sparkasse was founded, we did not have to think twice about supporting this project with our insurance services. Wiener Städtische Wechselseitige is pleased to bear the cost of the insurance premiums, thus helping provide security for the customers of Die Zweite Sparkasse”, says Günter Geyer, Chairman of Wiener Städtische Wechselseitige, explaining their high level of commitment.
Die Zweite Sparkasse is continuously improving its advisory services: It recently launched the debt prevention project “I €AN” in cooperation with the organisation “Jugend am Werk” and Schuldnerberatung Wien. A series of workshops on debt prevention aims to enhance the financial knowledge of young people and, as a result, to reduce the number of new customers