Cooperative banks celebrate 200th anniversary of Wilhelm Raiffeisen

29 Apr 2018

In 2018, cooperative banks celebrate Raiffeisen Year in honour of Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen, a key figure in the movement’s history, who was born 200 years ago.

Raiffeisen (1818-1888) is known as the founding father of credit coops after he established the first cooperative lending bank in 1864, to tackle rural poverty and loan shark practices in his native Germany. In 1866 he produced a book outlining ideas for an agricultural cooperative bank. The model caught on, with similar banks set up in the Netherlands from 1895 onwards.

“Raiffeisen's achievement was to fight for the creation of cooperative banks without initial capital. For him, it was a way to break the monopoly of banking activity at the hands of the rich,” says Jean-Louis Bancel, president of Crédit Coopératif.

Mr Bancel also chairs Coop FR, Cooperatives Europe, and the International Co-operative Banking Association. In a special interview for Cooperative Insider, he looks at the state of credit cooperatives across the continent and the contribution of the sector to fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals. Read our full interview with Jean-Louis Bancel, who talks about Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen.

A website in support of the Raiffeisen Year 2018 campaign has been set up by the Deutsche Friedrich-Wilhelm-Raiffeisen-Gesellschaft – with support from DGRV, DZ Bank, DRV and BVR – and several cooperative banks in Europe are joining in with the celebrations. Financial cooperative Raiffeisen is honouring its founder with a series of events to highlight and enhance the cooperative model.

France’s Crédit Mutuel is running a design contest for youth aged between six and 17, while Belgian coop service organisation Cera CoopBuro hosted a conference on the theme of the anniversary on 17 April in Louvain.

Dutch coop bank Rabobank, which started life as a group of local agricultural coop banks based on the Raiffeisen model, has set up a webpage paying tribute to Raiffeisen. The European Association of Co-operative Banks hosted a celebration on 20 March in Brussels.

Also this year Caisses d’Epargne, a network of credit cooperatives, is celebrating 200 years of history. The first Caisse d’Epargne was founded in Paris in 1818 to promote, collect and manage people’s savings. With others following, Caisse d’Epargne developed into a network of 16 mutual saving banks, which in 1999 became cooperative banks. Read more here

Photo: Deutsche Friedrich-Wilhelm-Raiffeisen-Gesellschaft/Juliane Herrmann

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