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Cooperative banking

A statue of cooperative pioneer Robert Owen stands in front of the Manchester head office of the UK's Co-operative Bank
A statue of cooperative pioneer Robert Owen stands in front of the Manchester head office of the UK's Co-operative Bank

Cooperative banking is retail and commercial banking organized on a cooperative basis. Cooperative banking institutions take deposits and lend money in most parts of the world.

Cooperative banking, as discussed here, includes retail banking carried out by credit unions, mutual savings banks, building societies and cooperatives, as well as commercial banking services provided by mutual organizations (such as cooperative federations) to cooperative businesses.



Credit unions

Credit unions have the purpose of promoting thrift, providing credit at reasonable rates, and providing other financial services to its members.[1] Its members are usually required to share a common bond, such as locality, employer, religion or profession, and credit unions are usually funded entirely by member deposits, and avoid outside borrowing. They are typically (though not exclusively) the smaller form of cooperative banking institution. In some countries, they are restricted to providing only unsecured personal loans, whereas in others, they can provide business loans to farmers, and mortgages.

Cooperative banks

Larger institutions are often called cooperative banks. Some are tightly integrated federations of credit unions, though those member credit unions may not subscribe to all nine of the strict principles of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU).

Like credit unions, cooperative banks are owned by their customers and follow the cooperative principle of one person, one vote. Unlike credit unions, however, cooperative banks are often regulated under both banking and cooperative legislation. They provide services such as savings and loans to non-members as well as to members, and some participate in the wholesale markets for bonds, money and even equities.[2] Many cooperative banks are traded on public stock markets, with the result that they are partly owned by non-members. Member control is diluted by these outside stakes, so they may be regarded as semi-cooperative.

Cooperative banking systems are also usually more integrated than credit union systems. Local branches of cooperative banks elect their own boards of directors and manage their own operations, but most strategic decisions require approval from a central office. Credit unions usually retain strategic decision-making at a local level, though they share back-office functions, such as access to the global payments system, by federating.

Some cooperative banks are criticized for diluting their cooperative principles. Principles 2-4 of the "Statement on the Co-operative Identity" can be interpreted to require that members must control both the governance systems and capital of their cooperatives. A cooperative bank that raises capital on public stock markets creates a second class of shareholders who compete with the members for control. In some circumstances, the members may lose control. This effectively means that the bank ceases to be a cooperative. Accepting deposits from non-members may also lead to a dilution of member control.

Building societies

Building societies exist in Britain, Ireland and several Commonwealth countries. They are similar to credit unions in organisation, though few enforce a common bond. However, rather than promoting thrift and offering unsecured and business loans, their purpose is to provide home mortgages for members. Borrowers and depositors are society members, setting policy and appointing directors on a one-member, one-vote basis. Building societies often provide other retail banking services, such as current accounts, credit cards and personal loans. In the United Kingdom, regulations permit up to half of their lending to be funded by debt to non-members, allowing societies to access wholesale bond and money markets to fund mortgages. The world's largest building society is Britain's Nationwide Building Society.


Mutual savings banks and mutual savings and loan associations were very common in the 19th and 20th centuries, but declined in number and market share in the late 20th century, becoming globally less significant than cooperative banks, building societies and credit unions.

Trustee savings banks are similar to other savings banks, but they are not cooperatives, as they are controlled by trustees, rather than their depositors.

International associations

The most important international associations of cooperative banks, both based in Brussels, are the International Association of Cooperative Banks (CIBP), which has member institutions from around the world, and the European Association of Co-operative Banks.

By region


The caisse populaire movement started by Alphonse Desjardins in Quebec, Canada, pioneered credit unions. Desjardins opened the first credit union in North AmericaiIn 1900, from his home in L vis, Quebec, marking the beginning of the Mouvement Desjardins. He was interested in bringing desperately needed financial protection to working people.

United Kingdom

British building societies developed into general-purpose savings and banking institutions with one member, one vote ownership and can be seen as a form of financial cooperative (although some de-mutualised into conventionally-owned banks in the 1980s and 1990s). The UK Co-operative Group includes both an insurance provider, the CIS, and the Co-operative Bank, both noted for promoting ethical investment.

Continental Europe

Important continental cooperative banking systems include the Cr dit Agricole, Cr dit Mutuel, Banque Populaire and Caisse d'Epargne in France, Rabobank in the Netherlands, BVR/DZ Bank in Germany, Banco Popolare, UBI Banca and Banca Popolare di Milano in Italy, Migros and Coop Bank in Switzerland, and the Raiffeisen system in several countries in central and eastern Europe. The cooperative banks that are members of the European Association of Co-operative Banks have 130 million customers, 4 trillion euros in assets, and 17% of Europe's deposits. The International Confederation of Cooperative Banks (CIBP) is the oldest association of cooperative banks at international level.

In Scandinavia, there is a clear distinction between mutual savings banks (Sparbank) and true credit unions (Handelsbank).

United States


The origins of the cooperative banking movement in India can be traced to the close of nineteenth century when, inspired by the success of the experiments related to the cooperative movement in Britain and the cooperative credit movement in Germany, such societies were set up in India. Cooperative banks are an important constituent of the Indian financial system. They are the primary financiers of agricultural activities, some small-scale industries and self-employed workers. The Anyonya Co-operative Bank in India is considered to have been the first cooperative bank in Asia.

Microcredit and microfinance

The more recent phenomena of microcredit and microfinance are often based on a cooperative model They focus on small business lending. In 2006, Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, won the Nobel Peace Prize for his ideas regarding development and his pursuit of the microcredit concept.

List of cooperative banking institutions

Cooperative banking institutions
Name Country Members
(2010 US$ millions)[3]
Type Alternative name Notes
Cr dit Agricole France [4] Joint stock bank CASA Majority owned by federation of credit unions
DZ Bank Germany Bank Deutsche Zentralgenossenschaftbank
German Central Cooperative Bank
Owned by three quarters of all Volksbank and Raiffeisenbank (cooperative banks) in Germany and Austria
Caisse d'Epargne France literally savings bank Credit union federation
Rabobank Netherlands 1,500,000+ Credit union federation
Nationwide Building Society UK Building society World's largest building society
Groupe Banque Populaire France 3,400,000
Desjardins Group Canada 5,795,277[5] Credit union federation Leading bank in Quebec
Raiffeisen Zentralbank Austria Bank RZB sterreich Credit union federation
Nonghyup South Korea Banking division of agricultural cooperative National Agricultural Cooperative Federation (NACF) Approx US$230 billion in loans
Raiffeisen Landesbank S dtirol Italy Bank Cassa Centrale Raiffeisen dell'Alto Adige
OP-Pohjola Group and Pohjola Bank Finland 31% share of Finnish credit market, and 32% share of savings and deposit market[6]
Bank Persatuan Malaysia 46,135 86,375,542.97 Bank Koperasi Bank Persatuan Malaysia Berhad 2nd national cooperative bank in Malaysia
Co-operative Bank UK Not applicable[7] [8] Bank Subsidiary of consumer cooperative
Navy Federal Credit Union US 3,004,352 33012 Credit union
Shared Interest UK [9] Cooperative lending society Finance for fair trade

See also

  • Building society
  • Credit union
  • Savings and loan association
  • Mutual savings bank



Source: Wikipedia | The above article is available under the GNU FDL. | Edit this article

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