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  • Writer's picture Kester Eddy

Budapest's Disappearing Banks [Updated]

Updated: Nov 14, 2022

KesterTester86 - Three banks advertised in the Hungarian capital which have either disappeared or dramatically downsized their business.

Photo: I took this pic in about 1996 at a well known location in Budapest - but where?

I think Citibank still has an operation in Budapest, but much more of a niche place than when this pic was taken. Credit Lyonnais? Again, may still be operating here in some capacity, but certainly this signage has long gone. And Postabank imploded a year or so after this pic was taken as thousands of punters queued up to rescue their savings (although they didn't have to in the end) after CEO Gábor Princz led it into economic catastrophe. Princz, educated in Moscow, made investments into everything from wineries to media operations. (Note, it would seem a good idea to put people of genuine good standing, good business acumen and financially prudent in charge of banks.)

If I took this photo today, I believe I could still see a bank's name from the same spot - but it wouldn't be one of those shown here. (You might say it's a sign of the times.)

Global celebrity status awaits for someone who can indentify the location and whose lucky number comes out of the EU-approved Black Woolly Hat.

Pl send answers via the site messaging system or in an email marked KT86 if you would.

Speaking of which, I've put up the celebrated winners of KT84 and KT85 if you scroll down to view the updated posts.

I wish all a great weekend and much success in the "Clock Change Challenge" - is it forwards or backwards? (OK, here's a clue - this is the clock change where you don't have to worry about missing your plane if you get it wrong and you are schedule to take off on Sunday morning.)

RESULTS: Well, this Tester really seemed to collect punters, definitely beyond my expectations, unless, maybe, a lot of folk had accounts with Citi Bank? True, Jerry Taylor found it a challenge: Thanks Kester. Spent a good while trying to place the building but with no success. You’ve beaten me again! Cheers Jerry David Kirkby didn't seem to try for the answer, but rather commented on the history of Citibank Hungary, and its ultimate downsizing. It was clearly painful. Kester, For ex pats the departure of the high street Citibank business ten years or so ago was a disaster. From the luxury and comfort of branches full of multi lingual professionals and all documentation in any of six languages, those who had enjoyed a familiar system of banking were suddenly plunged into chaos as the alternatives offered limited customer-friendly service and impossible online banking. At that time Citibank retained an office-only function co-ordinating their Central European businesses. Quite why they exited was never explained. Said David. Alan Sutton was early with his offering. Dear Kester, Debit Lyonnais and Citibank were in Vörösmarty tér in the corner towards Harmincad utca and the much loved and late lamented British Embassy. Debit Lyonnais – that's a new one on me, Alan – but perhaps this is your revenge after what they did with your bank account? He continued:

I think the Credit Lyonnais building is now a Chinese Bank. Sic transit gloria mundi Incidentally the British Embassy had once been a bank too and the big empty room with the Bosendorfer Grand Piano in it, where I arranged a concert series in 1991 was known by the inmates there as the "Banking Hall". RAS And then the floodgates opened! Hubert “Poirot” Warsmann came out of hibernation, as he could not resist this one. Looks like I haven't been doing much with KTs in the past few months. I can't really ignore this bit of Hungarian banking trivia and I will volunteer József nádor tér/Vörösmarty tér. CL had their office at the corner of József nádor tér and harmincad u, Postabank had its latter days HQ opposite (although if the photo is very old the PB HQ was further away on József nádor ter, beyond the Finance Ministry) and finally Citi had a branch on Vörösmarty tér. As you said Postabank went bust, CL exited Hungary after being bought by Credit Agricole and the building was sold to Bank of China. Citi, as far as I know, now only operates a corporate bank in the country, as a branch of Citi Ireland. This is a rather low profile situation despite a storied history in the country. They first opened in Hungary in the mid 80's I believe but eventually exited the retail banking and private banking businesses, maybe 10 years ago. Indeed, I have a photo of a CitiBank sign in Váci utca back in the late 80s, Hubert. And then David McCall

Hey Kester, I'm fairly certain that this photo was taken on Vorosmarty ter. As I recall, CL had a branch office near the Citibank branch, but Postabank only had an advertisement right there, with their HQ on József nádor tér. Tom Chilton was in the right area, but seems to have problems with his right-angles. Hi KJ, Thanks to Google and some distinctive chimneys, I'm pretty sure the answer to KT 86 is József nádor tér 7, currently occupied by the Bank of China. If I'm right, the huge Postabank sign and the digital clock (which isn't working) would seem to have adorned the back wall of the British Embassy TLC And they kept coming in! Zsolt Maroti, Theodore Boone, Steven Nelson, Richard Lock and Sandor Nemeth all staking claims on Vörösmarty tér and Credit Lyonnais. John Cantwell insisted: Put my name in that (EU approved) Black Woolly Hat! Steve Anthony complained: Your picture doesn't give away much ... Uh? Everyone and their dog seems to know this on Steven

but it could be just off Vörösmarty tér as the old Postabank HQ was on neighbouring József nádor tér, behind the Gundel. Could that low roof possibly be what was once a Chinese resto next to the British embassy on Harmincad utca? (it is now Red Pepper resto) Which makes me wonder why you are complaining! But not content with moaning about the challenge, Mr Anthony goes on to make damaging assertions as to an errant social life on my part. Was the photographer drunk>? :-) What a cheek! It was mid-day-ish as I remember, Mr A, and I certainly had not been imbibing. (to be fair, the original photo copy I had posted was a bit blurred because the light was bad when I took the electronic picture of the photo.) Finally, a friendly email from Ryan Tutak, writing in from one of those northern US states up by the Canadian border. Hi Kester, KT86 'Budapest's Disappearing Banks' is shot with the photographer's back to Vaci utca, looking onto Vörösmarty tér, Gerbeaud Cafe to left of Credit Lyonnais, Luxus department store on right between Citibank and photographer. I enjoy your website. Best wishes, Ryan Thank you Ryan – what nice chap you are! That was a very much welcomed message after that bashing by Steve Anthony! And you located me more or less spot on – I reckon I was standing by the former Luxus store (I think it's become a luxus cafe in the not too distant past – well, it's surely luxus prices, the coffee may be lukewarm for all I know - certainly the last one I had on .) OK, now for the draw. In truth, this took place last Tuesday, when I met up with Mr Chilton for a beer or two in the Helvécia söröző (near Oktagon). Mr C was not only keen to buy me beers (having won several Kester Testers), he became overwhelmed with emotion when I showed him the EU-approved Black Woolly hat and invited him to draw out the winning number. I confess, this was a risk to my reputation, since he was number 4 in said hat, and had he drawn his own number, the Competition Authorities in Brussels might have started an investigation etc. But in the end, after the TV cameras had arrived to record the historical scene, Mr C diddled and fiddled with his hand in hat and drew out …. number 1 (Yes, again! It really is THE lucky paper slip!). Which means somewhere in the borderlands of Wales and England, Mr Sutton is likely to be swamped by paparazzi and nosey hacks from the Wrexham Enquirer in the next few hours, desperate as they will be to ask him how he copes with his new celebrity status. Congratulations, Mr Sutton, and all who 'had a go'. Now, what about GuesterTester 87, that Tank in the Park?

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