Former Länderbank (Vienna), founded 1880, architect Otto Wagner (built 1882-1884)

It can be said that the Austro-Hungarian credit institutions were established along French and German lines either as direct imitations (Prussian mortgage banks, credit cooperatives) or as combinations of German, English or French patterns (savings banks). At the same time very special types were developed in the monarchy, such as the Landesbanken or the dualistic organisation of the bi-national Austro-Hungarian Bank. They illustrate the special financial climate in the empire. The adjustment to this special climate can also be seen in the participation of the ownership in the banks and the management of the banks. For example, in their application to the ministry the founders of Credit-Anstalt guaranteed the subscription of the capital in the following way: 40 per cent was taken by the Rothschild houses in Vienna, Frankfurt and Paris, 50 per cent by Austrian and Bohemian aristocrats and 10 per cent by a private Prague banker. According to the founders’ statement of intention, it could only undertake Austrian transactions and a representative of the state had a seat in the governing body. Representatives of the Hungarian aristocracy also had seats in the first committee of the management. In this way the Credit-Anstalt wished to be a financial institution representing the multinational character of the monarchy. In the final distribution of shares the Credit-Anstalt revealed its “national” character according to the monarchy’s state philosophy: neither the dynasty itself, nor the aristocracy nor the Viennese Jews were excluded.…


Former Österreichische Creditanstalt building (today the Park Hyatt Vienna hotel), founded 1855 “k.k.privilegierte Österreichische Credit-Anstalt für Handel und Gewerbe”, architect Franz Fröhlich (built 1858-60)


The components of the banking system had already been established when the above mentioned Gründerzeit took place. Different components were formed in different periods and new types of institutions were created after the crash of 1873 because the system itself was very dynamic.


The oldest element was the bank of issue in Vienna (1816). The Austrian National Bank opened its first branch in Prague in 1847 and its second one in Pest in 1851. By 1875 it had 24 branches in addition to its headquarters in Vienna. On local markets these branch offices played an important role in the distribution of Treasury notes, government paper money that had been issued again since 1866, and in the supply of bank notes. In the beginning of the 19th century savings banks were established. The Erste Österreichische Sparcasse was established in 1819 with philanthropic aims and it served as an example in other parts of the empire. Due to the crises of 1857 and 1873 a great number of private bankers, who were considered the main financiers before, disappeared from the financial scene or their business was transformed. They either specialised in certain fields or joined larger banks established at that time. The Rothschild house in Vienna was the only one to keep its former position.…


Sparkasse Karlsbad, Bohemia


Industrialisation and the industrial boom in Cisleithania, the western part of the “Dual Austro-Hungarian Monarchy”, boosted the confidence of Austrian liberalism, while the crash of 1873 weakened it again considerably. The Gründerzeit (literally: founding time) resulted from a combination of several factors, a mushrooming financial sector willing to invest in the economy, an expanding rail network making demands on the iron industry and technical innovation in various coal-consuming industries, all of this interacting to produce an economic leap forward. As in the 1850s the railway expansion spurred financial innovation, the Gründerzeit was characterised by a blossoming of banking institutions. After the financial crisis of 1857/58 most private bankers experienced a serious downturn, but finance grew again from 1867, the founding of the dual monarchy, via the multiplication of joint stock banks through the established Creditanstalt, associated with Anselm Rothschild, and the Niederösterreichische Escomptegesellschaft. Utilising high profits, the banks helped sponsor the growth of joint stock companies, 1005 of which received charters in the years 1867-73. Vitkovice, controlled by Rothschild, led the way in the adoption of the Bessemer process by the monarchy’s major iron works by 1870, along with puddling, the rolling mill and increasingly the use of coke instead of charcoal. Chief among them was the Bohemian Iron Company, centred at the coal-mining town of Kladno near Prague, which had emerged from the amalgamation of three predecessors in 1857. The coal production received a powerful impetus from technical innovations in a series of industries in the 1860s, like flour milling, sugar refining, paper making and of course the textile industry.…