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Erste Bank: The discreet charms of the bourgeoisie

In barely a decade, Erste Bank has gone from being a purely Austria-focused savings bank to a regional retail banking powerhouse. Guy Norton charts its rise to prominence and asks: where does it go next?

Champion of the retail banking revolution

MIDDLE CLASS AND proud of it. That’s the unapologetic claim of Andreas Treichl, chief executive of Austria’s Erste Bank and the man who has overseen a transformation in the bank’s fortunes over the past decade. At first glance, it’s perhaps an unlikely and even arguably an unwished-for boast for a bank headquartered in Vienna, a city that more than any other in the so-called Old Europe has attempted to throw off its fusty imperial past and sought to position itself it as the gateway to the hip, happening world of the soi-disant New Europe.

Closer inspection, however, reveals that on a practical level Erste’s ambition to be the bank of choice for the emergent middle class of central and eastern Europe is one lined with a gilt-edged future.

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