Italians not only invented banking in the 14th century Florence, but today Italy is home to the world's oldest bank, on its way to becoming a key player in the international baking business.
The Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena was founded in 1472 as a pawnshop intended to help the poor in the Tuscan city of Siena. Now Italy's seventh largest bank, it has 1,478 branches, 603 of them in Tuscany.
Between 1991 and 1996, its share rose to five percent of Italy's mutual funds market. Today it leads the Italian market for total sales of life insurance at bank branches. Tuscany's leading bank, 95 percent of its customers are small- and medium-sized companies.
Earlier this year it bought the Banca Agricola Mantovana, added a stake in a Parma savings bank and offered 500 million shares to the public. The revenues will be used to improve the retail banking operations.