Wiener BerufsBörse, an advice centre for people with addiction problems, and the self-help group Selbsthilfegruppe Anonyme Spieler (gamblers anonymous) have started working with Die Zweite Sparkasse in Vienna. The two associations complement the network of six counselling organisations that recommend customers to Die Zweite Sparkasse. Also, the bank’s partner, Vienna Insurance Group, has expanded its insurance services: the free accident insurance available to all customers now also covers all children living in the same household.
Die Zweite Sparkasse offers credit accounts to people who are experiencing financial difficulties and who no longer have access to banking services. Two years after the first branch opened on Vienna’s Glockengasse, the bank now manages accounts for more than 3,200 customers. About 200 new customers join the bank each month. Their accounts are overseen by voluntary staff members of Erste Bank and the local savings banks, who work in five offices located in Vienna, Innsbruck, Salzburg, Klagenfurt and Graz. A correspondence bank model has also been developed with Wiener Neustädter Sparkasse. This is to be implemented in other provinces as well. Here, volunteers assist customers of Die Zweite Sparkasse in the offices of the regional savings bank after regular office hours.
Speedy arrangement of appointments for new customers
Currently, 400 volunteers attend to customers. Thus far, they have conducted a total of 7,000 counselling interviews, during which they explain in great detail how the credit account should be used, and have spent about 15,000 hours working for Die Zweite Sparkasse. “New customers recommended by the counselling organisations get access to their accounts plus bank cards within two weeks,” explains Dr. Evelyn Hayden, Chairwoman of Die Zweite Sparkasse.
Wiener BerufsBörse and SHG Anonyme Spieler join the group of NGOs
Caritas and the debt counselling services select from among their clients all over Austria those who desperately need a bank account to be able to return to a normal life as far as their finances are concerned but who are denied access to an account anywhere else. Both aid organisations have from the very beginning been instrumental in developing “the bank for the unbankable”. In Vienna, another four counselling organisations joined the project in October 2007: the MA 40 municipal authority for social affairs, social and health law of the city of Vienna and the three private help initiatives Dialog, Neustart and Wiener Hilfswerk.
Two other organisations that support people in difficult life situations can now also recommend their clients to Die Zweite Sparkasse. SHG Anonyme Spieler offers free social counselling services to compulsive gamblers and their families who might be faced with eviction, unemployment or prosecution. The self-help group assists them in handling their finances and offers therapy with the support of professional therapists, social workers and former compulsive gamblers. President Elisabeth Gizicki-Merkinger says cooperation with Die Zweite Sparkasse represents a chance for the people who seek help from the association: “Having an account facilitates their access to the labour market, helps them get their finances in order and makes budgeting easier.”
The Wiener BerufsBörse, a Vienna-based addiction and work guidance centre, offers counselling and support to people with addiction problems, guiding them towards professional (re)integration. “More than half of our clients are heavily in debt, more than two thirds are permanently unemployed,” says DSA Irene Pribassnik, Managing Director of Wiener BerufsBörse. She strongly believes that holding an account is indispensable for getting out of debt and taking up work. “Cooperating with Die Zweite Sparkasse is thus very helpful because ‘the bank for the unbankable’ enables our clients to sort out their financial situations – and hence make a decisive step toward social and professional integration.”
Accounts with added security
The Wiener Städtische Versicherung AG Vienna Insurance Group works with Die Zweite Sparkasse to offer customers an insurance package tailored to their needs. The Group’s accident insurance now also covers the children of Die Zweite Sparkasse customers who live in the same household: “To us, it is important that we get involved in social activities and play an active part in the Die Zweite Sparkasse project in order to contribute to improving the life situation of as many people as possible. With our free accident insurance that includes children we are expanding our insurance services to respond to all needs – as an important contribution to supporting people who otherwise would be left alone with their economic and social problems,” explains Dr. Günter Geyer, Director General of the Vienna Insurance Group.
Die Zweite Sparkasse offers
In cooperation with the Vienna Insurance Group it also offers
Both services are available automatically when opening an account. The range of products also includes
Initiated and financed by ERSTE Foundation, operated by volunteers
The starting capital of EUR 5.8 million for Die Zweite Sparkasse has been provided by ERSTE Foundation, which also initiated this project. The bank clerks and the Managing Board of Die Zweite Sparkasse are current or retired staff members of Erste Bank and the savings banks, who exclusively work on a voluntary basis.
The credit account is part of a complete package of counselling and support services provided by a charity organisation. In order to be entitled to such an account, which presently is limited to three years, customers must regularly use the services of such an organisation and be recommended by it.
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Wiener Städtische Versicherung
Marion Ribarits, +43(0)50350-21049, email@example.com
SHG Anonyme Spieler
Elisabeth Gizicki-Merkinger, +43 (0) 660-123 66 74, www.anonyme-spieler.at
ERSTE Foundation is active in the Central and South Eastern European region. It develops projects independently and in collaboration with partners within the three programmes Social Affairs, Culture and Europe. ERSTE Foundation is the major shareholder of Erste Group. ERSTE Foundation is therefore committed to acting socially and culturally responsible, a commitment to civil society that is also based on its historical roots. Since 2003 it has been the direct legal successor to Erste Österreichische Spar-Casse, founded in Vienna in 1819, and also draws its mandate from the tradition of the savings banks, which were founded more than 180 years ago to serve the common good.