Social banking addresses acute needs, offers sustainable support
Over the past two decades, the countries in Central and Eastern Europe have made very significant progress in their convergence with Western Europe. However, studies suggest that some 16 million persons in the countries in which Erste Group is present (Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, Croatia and Serbia) are at risk of poverty or social exclusion; this corresponds to around 30% of the adult population in the region. Three out of four persons in this group have been unable to build sufficient savings to meet unexpected expenses and one in five cannot afford to adequately heat their homes. In addition, seven out of ten low income people in the region have seen their income levels remain flat or decrease over the course of the past decade.
The Step-by-step programme will be rolled out through Erste Group’s network of local banks and in partnership with other organisations and NGOs. It also builds on individual programmes that the Group’s subsidiaries in the CEE region have already launched and works together with existing local Social Banking projects, such as Austria’s Zweite Sparkasse (founded 2006) and Romania’s good.bee Credit (2009), with the target of creating a unique infrastructure for financial inclusion across the region. As part of the Social Banking programme, Erste Group’s banks will also cooperate with the ERSTE Foundation and local partners to provide clients with appropriate financial literacy, money advice, business training, workshops and mentoring.
Building on the basis of its achievements to date, Erste Group’s Social Banking program aims to help create 5,000 new jobs, provide financing to 500 social organisations and improve financial stability for 25,000 previously low-income people by 2019.