Founded in the early nineteenth century, the Savings Banks were engaged in two areas. They were institutions pursuing both credit and charitable activities in their local communities. During the 1990s they were subjected to profound and radical changes that resulted in a significant reformation of their organisational, legal and institutional structures.
Prompted by the 1st and 2nd Directives on credit, concerning freedom of establishment and banking de-specialisation, the transformation and modernisation process of the Italian banking system gained momentum, and law no. 218 dated 30 July 1990 (the "Amato" law), was passed along with the relevant implementation decrees. Therefore in accordance with this law, the Savings Banks transferred their banking activities to ad-hoc joint-stock banking companies. (the new Savings Banks). Once this transfer had taken place, the original Savings Banks were converted to Foundations assuming all the socially-oriented and charitable tasks provided for by the statutes of the Savings Banks.
The new joint-stock Savings Banks are business enterprises governed by the civil code and the banking laws. They operate on an equal footing with all other banks operating in the credit sector. Around fifty of them have kept their names. The rest, on merging with other banks, changed their original names giving rise to some of the main Italian banking groups.