Erste Bank AG
Leave it to me to start things off by asking a dumb question
at Erste Bank, Austria's second largest bank with $4.5 billion
in revenues and 28,000 employees. I ask Michael Mauritz from
corporate communications if there was or still is a Mr. Erste.
It turns out "erste" is German for "first".
The bank really does have the right to call itself Erste Bank
seeing as how it's Austria's oldest bank having been founded
back in 1819.
The bank's six-story head office occupies a prime corner spot
in Vienna's city center on the main pedestrian shopping street.
According to Mauritz the bank has been on this site since its
Headquarters, comprised of this and two nearby buildings, employs
700. Smoking is allowed in offices, everyone including executives
eats in the cafeteria, there're no recreational facilities on-site,
the bank's art collection is international in scope and primarily
modern and, as for employee parking-you're on your own since
parking in Vienna's city center is scarce. The AVS Foundation
owns 40% of Erste. Plus, what would a savings bank be without
the obligatory piggy bank collection and in this case they are
all porcelain. Any unusual employee perks? The usual bank discounts
such as special rates on home loans and free banking accounts.
Wow, it's a long time since I've seen an American-style boardroom
in Europe. What do I mean by that? In most boardrooms in America
the walls are lined with portraits or paintings of past Chairmen
and CEO's. In Europe that is generally not the case. Erste Bank's
boardroom however is an exception. It's a beautiful room with
three chandeliers shedding light over the elongated table seating
25. On the walls hang portraits of 10 past Chairmen. However,
these portraits play second fiddle to the 10-foot tall portrait
of Emperor Franz Josef (1848-1918), who ruled Austria during
its glory years in the late 1800's and early 1900's.
CEO Andreas Treichi occupies a fourth floor middle office. I
count six tombstones and note the family pictures and computer.
The view out his window? Pedestrians passing by.