Introduction

Savings banks were created in the early years of the nineteenth century as institutions with two souls: one providing banking services and the other more closely dedicated to cultural and beneficence. In the nineties, the evolution of banking norms strengthened their credit company character, transforming them into joint-stock companies; while the strongly philanthropic role was entrusted to Foundations of banking origin. Today's Savings Banks have two important links with these Foundations: assets, because the Foundations often hold share-equity, but more especially values, with their common commitment to the communities they serve. This commitment traces its roots back to the original savings banks born more than a century ago and has a positive, social and economic goal.

Today the Savings Banks are private, commercial companies, controlled by the Civil Code and by banking norms, just like other banks. They are, however, characterised by the closeness they have to their communities, supporting their development and reinvesting the savings collected there through the classic banking model. Small industries, artisans and farmers, as well as families, make up their privileged clientele. At the end of 2016 there were about thirty savings banks active, with 3,519 branch offices, 28,797 employees, 162.4 billion euros in total assets, 126.8 billion in direct deposits and about 11.3 billion in shareholders’ equity. The other savings banks have since become the core of some of the biggest Italian banking groups.