The Austrian association savings banks

The savings banks founded by associations for the common good are the oldest and now form the largest share of the Austrian savings banks group. Starting with the First Austrian Savings Bank (Erste Österreichische Spar-Casse) in 1819, only association savings banks were founded until the 1860s, after which municipal savings banks were also founded.

The Austrian Savings Banks Association (Sparkasse Verband Österreich) has experienced a fundamental change in the last 50 years, both in terms of its numbers and its legal form. In 1973, there were 169 institutions, of which 34 were founded as association and 135 as municipal savings banks. Mergers have meant that now only 49 savings banks remain, with the largest institution at that time, the Central Savings Bank of Vienna (Zentralsparkasse der Gemeinde Wien), which was founded as a municipal savings bank, having since exited the group.

Of these 49 savings banks, only 13 remain in their original form, of which 10 as association savings banks. A new foundation was added with the Second Savings Bank (Zweite Sparkasse), which was created for people without normal access to banking services. The remaining savings banks have spun off their business operations into a joint-stock company and continue to exist as foundations or what are known in German as Anteilsverwaltungssparkassen, a kind of holding company.

Overall, those savings banks that were founded as association savings banks account for around 90% of the balance sheet total of the savings bank group and around 20% of the balance sheet total of Austrian banks.

Since 1997, the First Bank of Austrian Savings Banks (Erste Bank der österreichischen Sparkassen), which emerged from the First Austrian Savings Bank, has been the Group’s central institution. Its shares are held by Erste Group Bank AG, as are those of the subsidiary savings banks in seven Central and Eastern European countries, including Česká spořitelna and Slovenská sporiteľňa.