Our identity

Here you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding the history and identity of Erste Group.

The “Erste Österreichische Spar-Casse” was founded in October 1819. A group of well respected citizens came together to establish a financial institution that they intended to be open to everyone.

At the heart of the history of our foundation was this sentence:
“In any district with a Spar-Casse savings bank there will be far fewer poor people.”

“Establish Spar-Cassen!” Booklet from 1820.

The French Revolution had shown that mass poverty could no longer be ignored. Charity or alms could not solve social problems.

At the same time, the ideas of the Enlightenment were pouring into Central Europe. The value of the individual, his dignity, opportunities and talents became the focus of thought for many citizens.

Instead of combating poverty through alms, the foundation of savings banks has already begun in Scotland. In Vienna, this attitude fell on fruitful ground.



The founders of the “Erste Österreichische Spar-Casse” had widely varying backgrounds. Three of our founders deserve special mention:

  • Johann Baptist Weber, a clergyman in St. Leopold
  • Bernhard Ritter von Eskeles, a banker and one of the co-founders of the Austrian National Bank
  • Ignaz Ritter von Schönfeld, an entrepreneur from Prague and later Imperial and Royal Court Agent in Vienna

Here are the names of the other founders:
Peter Bohr, Joseph R. v. Dallstein, Michael Hengelmüller Leopold Huber, Franz Jahn, Albert Kohn, Johan Mohrenthal, Vincent Neuling, J. E. v. Neuwall, Franz Rikl, Joseph Peham, A. J. Rabislovitsch and Joseph Ritter the Elder.



Three of the founders: Johann Baptist Weber, Bernhard Eskeles and Ignaz Schönfeld.

Tellers’ hall of the savings bank.

Until the start of the 19th century, banks were only there for the rich and powerful. Ordinary people had no access to financial services.

To open a savings bank that was open to all - that was our founders' concept.  The “Erste Österreichische Spar-Casse” was the first bank of its kind in Central and Eastern Europe. To this day, this fact is reflected in our name.

In the parish church of St. Leopold in Leopoldstadt. At the time, this was one of the poorest districts of Vienna. Johann Baptist Weber, who had already founded a kindergarten, an almshouse and two schools, gave the Erste Österreichische Spar-Casse its first home here.

And it was here that the savings bank commenced operations in October 1819.

St. Leopold’s church, built in 1722-24.

The idea of the savings bank rapidly spread from Vienna to many parts of the Monarchy. Here is an extract of the numerous other branches founded during this period:

Map of the Austrian Monarchy 1823.

A young girl named Marie Schwarz was the first person to receive a savings book. The deposit book bearing the number 1 contained a donated credit of 10 gulden. Today, that is equivalent to about EUR 140.

When Marie Schwarz withdrew a sum in November 1848, the deposit had grown to 30 gulden and 48 kreuzer.

The savings book with the number 1.

The symbol of the bee at Graben 21 in the first district of Vienna.

Fertilizing. Busy. Organised. Lively.

For many generations and cultures, the bee has been a symbol of life and growth. From the start  it was also the symbol of the savings banks.

Even today, you will see the bee on savings bank buildings in Central Europe. You can still see it on the gable of the Erste Bank building at Graben 21 in Vienna.

The logo of ERSTE Foundation.

DIE ERSTE österreichische Spar-Casse Privatstiftung, or for short: ERSTE Foundation as the legal successor of our founders continues the tradition of the bee. It has chosen the modernised bee symbol as its logo. Thus the bee continues to be present in numerous programmes of the Foundation in Central and Eastern Europe.

In 1938, a design by the Viennese poster artist Lois Gaigg became the logo of numerous savings banks in Germany. It took the form of an “S” stylised as a savings box with a nozzle for inserting money and dot suspended above it, representing a coin.

It was the designer Otl Aicher, who in 1971 gave the “S” of the savings banks the modern form we know today. He dropped the slot and used the colour red. Later, the logo was given a facelift. In the 1970s, the red “S” also became the symbol of a number of savings banks in Austria.

Erste also changed its logo at that time. The bee was replaced with the Roman numeral one.

When Erste Bank went public in 1997 and cooperation between all savings banks in Austria intensified, the decision was made to have a shared symbol. The “S” became the shared logo of the entire Savings Bank Group.

With its IPO in 1997, the Erste Bank commenced its Eastern and Central Europe strategy. By 2006, 10 banks had been acquired. Some of these are today market leaders in member states of the European Union. Česká spořitelna in the Czech Republic, Slovenská sporiteľňa in Slovakia and Banca Comercială Română (BCR) in Romania.

Today, we also operate as a retail bank in Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Moldavia.

Spar-Casse in 1819. Today, Erste Foundation as the founder still is the largest shareholder of the Erste Group.

Erste Foundation remains committed to the idea that lay behind the foundation of the Erste: the development and expansion of civil society in our region is promoted on the basis of respect for the individual and society.

Three programmes are financed with the dividends that come from the Erste Group: Social Development, Culture and Europe.

If you would like to know more about the activities, please follow this link: www.erstestiftung.org

Most of us are not even aware of it, but for almost everything we do in our daily lives, we need it: the bank account. Rent, electricity, gas, salary, everything that is processed without cash changing hands.

Nonetheless, in Austria there are an estimated 40,000 people who no longer have a bank account. For a variety of reasons, generally unemployment, divorce or illness, they have entered into social or financial difficulties and have ultimately also lost their bank account.

That is why ERSTE Foundation has founded a savings bank: the Zweite Wiener Vereins-Sparcasse, for short: Zweite Sparkasse (Second Savings Bank). If offers an account without an overdraft facility for the people affected. However, this is just the first step on the path towards a life without debts, a path that each person himself must find the strength to follow.

For more about this, see