Creditanstalt Bankverein

   Upon successful petition to the government of Franz Joseph, the Creditanstalt or the Creditanstalt for Trade and Manufacture was founded in 1855. The initial capital was put up by several leading aristocratic houses with ties to the court and by contemporary bankers, the most significant of whom was Anselm Rothschild (1773–1855), whose family had important establishments in Frankfurt, London, and Paris. The Creditanstalt would be the Habsburg Empire’s private bank until the collapse of the monarchy in 1918.
   With far greater backing than any other bank in the Habsburg lands—its initial net value was higher than even the Austrian National Bank—the Creditanstalt was a significant source of investment capital and credit for major industrialization and infrastructure projects, such as railroads, for the rest of the 19th century. It specialized in lending to highly creditworthy clients in heavy industry and the aristocracy. By 1860, it had opened six branches in urban centers throughout the Habsburg territory.
   The Creditanstalt continued to play this role, albeit on a more modest level, in the First Austrian Republic, even taking on the debts of weaker financial institutions such as the Anglo–Austrian Bank (1926) and the General Austrian Agricultural Credit Bank (1929). The latter had buckled under the combined pressures of inflation, the restrictions placed on the convertibility of the new Austrian currency, the schilling, and the general economic hard times of the era. It was the Creditanstalt’s policy of assuming the financial obligations of sister banking institutions that made it the center of world attention in May 1931. Unable to muster the capital to satisfy creditors, the Creditanstalt declared it could not meet their demands. German banks, which had invested heavily in Austria, began to withdraw their deposits, thus setting off a run on banks throughout Europe. The ensuing international monetary chaos did much to set off the Great Depression of the 20th century. Within the First Austrian Republic itself, the bank was reorganized with the financial assistance of the state and the Austrian National Bank. In 1934, it merged with the Bank of Vienna (Wiener Bankverein).
   During the period 1938–1945, the bank was under German control; many of its assets, including equities, were transferred to the Deutsche Bank. Some of these were returned as part of the Austrian State Treaty of 1955. In 1946, the Creditanstalt was nationalized as part of a general Austrian government program. A policy of attracting both private investors and borrowers was in place by 1957. The mid-point of the 1970s found the Creditanstalt among the hundred largest banks in the world, as privatization continued. It opened branches in London, New York, and Hong Kong. By 1987, the state of Austria had only a 51 percent interest in the Creditanstalt. Four years later, the federal minister of finance was authorized to sell the remainder of the nationally held shares. These were taken over in 1997 by Bank Austria.
   See also Anschluss.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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