Erste Group was founded in 1819 as the first Austrian savings bank (“Erste oesterreichische Spar-Casse”). In 1997, Erste Group went public with a strategy to expand its retail business into Central and Eastern Europe. Erste Group's customer base has grown through numerous acquisitions and organic growth from 600,000 to 17.3 million, of which 16.2 million clients are citizens of the European Union and benefit from the stable EU regulatory framework. More than 52,000 employees are serving clients in over 3,000 branches in 8 countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine). Having always focussed on retail and SME business, today Erste Group is one of the largest financial services providers in Central and Eastern Europe in terms of clients and total assets.