The best-known project of ERSTE Foundation in Austria to date is ‘Die Zweite Sparkasse’ (the Second Savings Bank). This ‘bank for the unbankable’ offers accounts to people who have got into financial difficulties and no longer have access to banking services.
Imagine the following scenario: you have become unemployed, had a nasty divorce that led to bankruptcy, you have been seriously ill and unable to continue to work – in other words, you are in severe financial dire straits and have lost access to all banking services. Whatever the reason, you suddenly cannot utilise cashless transactions anymore, not for paying your rent, your gas and electricity bill, nor anything else, not even any incoming money has anywhere to go.
An estimated 4o,000 people in Austria do not hold a bank account. These are exactly those people who Die Zweite Sparkasse has thought of and about. The idea for this ‘bank for the unbankable’ lies in the history of ERSTE Foundation.
Vienna in the year 1819. The catholic priest Johann Baptist Weber founds a savings bank for everybody in the poor Viennese neighbourhood of the 2nd District (the exact part of the city in which the first branch of Die Zweite Sparkasse opened in 2006). Under its founding name, ERSTE Oesterreichische Spar-casse became the first bank in Austria to facilitate the economic empowerment of all people, by helping ordinary citizens save their money for times of hardship. More than 190 years later, Die Zweite Sparkasse is a savings bank for fellow men and women, who are not eligible to administer their daily money business via a regular bank.
Die Zweite Sparkasse provides its customers with a bank account, no matter what their financial situation may be. The aim is to help them to recover their independence, find a way back into a normal daily life and to a regular bank account. Repairing credit history is the first step in a longer and supportive process of getting out of debt and back on one’s feet.
The pillars of this project’s success are all the experts who contribute daily and voluntarily to making this unique service work. From the managing board to the bank clerks and assistants: every single person who works at Die Zweite Sparkasse does this for free – but not for nothing.
Die Zweite Sparkasse has partnered up with numerous counselling organisations, debt advisory services, welfare institutions and NGOs, such as Caritas, Wiener Hilfswerk, Verein Dialog, to only name a few, to support people who have slipped into a situation of financial distress. These partner institutions recommend clients regardless of their social, national or religious affiliations for an account with Die Zweite Sparkasse.
Based on this endorsement, such people are granted a basic bank account without overdraft facility including a debit card (Maestro). Customers can use this bank card for cashless payments worldwide, to deposit and withdraw money using all available electronic terminals and ATMs of Erste Bank as well as of their local Second Savings Bank. As added benefit, and if desired, an investment account with increased interest rates that encourages to put money aside can be included in the package. Also, a building loan contract (Aufbau-Bausparvertrag) as well as homeowner’s insurance at an affordable premium can be part of the account; accident insurance is free of charge.
There is a fee of € 9 per quarter. However, this is returned once the client has overcome the crisis and is able to change to a ‘normal’ bank. Currently, a first evaluation of such a possible switch is done after 3 years.