The relevance of historic path dependency for the internationalization of Vienna’s banks

Overall aim and research questions

The financial center of Vienna experienced a dynamic internationalization during the 1990s and early 2000s, which was focused on the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Although Viennese banks were irrelevant players on the European scale, Bank Austria, Erste Bank, and Raiffeisen International became the largest foreign banks in this region. This research project questions the impact of historic preconditions – in particular, the east-engagement of Viennese banks before 1989 – for the success-story in the 1990s and early 2000s. Beyond this empirical question, this project intends to make a conceptual contribution towards the evolutionary economic geography – the differentiation between a “weak” and “strong” history and the transition between these pathways. A further aim of this research project is the changing medial discourses about the east-engagement of Viennese banks, which rapidly changed during the recent economic crisis and its increasing political risks in this region.


Based on annual reports of Viennas dominant banks (Raiffeisen, Bank Austria, Erste Bank, Volksbanken AG and BAWAG-PSK) and the FDI-statistic of the Austrian Federal Bank, the formation of a dominant pathway could be identified. What were the historic precondition for this “strong history”?

This research project identifies this period as a “strong history” and traces this story of success back to historic pre-1989 conditions: a “weak history”. Based on quantitative research and expert interviews, this project identified a pre-1989 “weak” history, which had a significant impact on the successful internationalization since 1989. The project shows the personal and institutional continuities of Viennese banks in the CEE region, which outlasted the historic break of 1989.


Musil, R. und Eder, J. (2015): Entwicklungspfade des Finanzplatzes Wien. Transformation von der weak zur strong history? In: Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsgeographie 59/4, S. 259-275. DOI 10.1515/zfw-2015-0405

ISR-Project team


  • Österreichische Nationalbank (Dr. Rene DellMour)
  • Institut für vergleichende Medienforschung, ÖAW (Dr. Josef Seethaler)


January 2015 to June 2017


Stadt Wien, MA 7