ESFG was established in Luxembourg in 1984, though its predecessor company was established in 1975. However the history of the Espírito Santo Financial Group reaches back to 1884, when a bank, which later was to become Banco Espírito Santo ("BES"), was established in Lisbon by José Maria Espírito Santo.
In 1935, an insurance company, which was later to become Companhia de Seguros Tranquilidade ("Tranquilidade"), was added to the group.
By 1975 BES, Tranquilidade, as well as all other Portuguese banks and insurance companies were nationalized, an event which forced the Espírito Santo Group to seek and develop business outside of Portugal, using the purposely established ESFG as a platform. Such initial businesses were located in Brazil, France, Switzerland and the United States. ESFG continues to operate banking activities in these regions either independently or through BES. In 2008 ESFG launched ES Bankers (Dubai) an investment and wealth management operation based in the UAE.
In the period of 1989 to 1992, ESFG was able to recover control of BES and Tranquilidade, which were being privatized by the Portuguese government. In the following years, further units were added to these two companies; in the banking area, an investment bank, a stock brokerage company, and asset management company and other companies were added to BES, forming the BES Group, which consolidates with ESFG.
Tranquilidade, ESFG’s principal insurance investment, was later joined by two new companies, Companhia de Seguros Tranquilidade Vida and Espírito Santo Seguros.
In 2006 changes were made in the ESFG insurance companies which resulted in the following: Companhia de Seguros Tranquilidade and T-Vida, a new company set up in 2006, both consolidate directly with ESFG. As of 2012 BES Vida (formerly Companhia de Seguros Tranquilidade Vida) is wholly owned and operated by Banco Espírito Santo and is fully consolidated by ESFG. BES Seguros (formerly Espírito Santo Seguros) is distributed through Banco Espírito Santo. In 2008 Tranquilidade launched its direct line insurance company LOGO.