Together supporting microfinance
and microinsurance in the South

Raiffeisen writes history

'We do together what we are too small to do alone'

This principle of F.W. Raiffeisen forms the cornerstone of our work.
It is based on a long history and proven support.

  • A name full of inspiration 
  • Who is F.W. Raiffeisen? 
  • The founder of the first savings and credit cooperatives 
  • The Raiffeisen principes 
  • From Raiffeisen to BRS 
    • A name full of inspiration

      Our interest in microfinance and microinsurance goes back to the history of our own company. To the savings and credit cooperatives that improved the fate of poor farmers in Belgium in the 19th century.

      Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen is the man behind the creation of these cooperatives. Our very existence is based on his ideas about cooperative banking.

      This is why we adopted his name when creating our name.

      Who is F.W. Raiffeisen?

      Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen was a German mayor who lived in the 19th century.

      The famine in the winter of 1846-1847 resulted in terrible poverty in his region. Raiffeisen observed that charity did not provide a solution. This is why he committed himself to finding a way to combat poverty and misery.

      To achieve this Raiffeisen opted for a resolutely different approach: self-help. He brought poor farmers together to help themselves and each other. The objective was to apply mutual solidarity based on a cooperative structure to get them out of poverty.

       

      The founder of the first savings and credit cooperatives 

      In order to give small farmers the opportunity to improve their living conditions, Raiffeisen believed that they had to be able to obtain low-cost financial loans.

      To implement this, he created his savings and credit cooperatives. The members of these cooperatives put in their savings and anyone who needed money, was able to borrow at advantageous rates.

      It worked!

      The positive results of this savings and credit fund led a rapid growth in the number of those participating in the service. Umbrella organisations emerged as well as a central body.
      This is how the Raiffeisen system emerged, a cooperative structure with local autonomy.

      Cooperative banking was born.

      The Raiffeisen Principles 

      Raiffeisen set up a number of basic principles for the savings and credit cooperatives.

      A few of these principles are:
      • There is one common goal and social mission.
      • The emphasis is on people.
      • Profit is important in that it is necessary for the continuing existence of the cooperative.
      • Decisions are taken democratically.
      • Members are also owners and therefore share responsibility.
      • The cooperative must be able to count on the savings of the members in order to provide loans.

      From Raiffeisen to BRS

      As was the case with Germany, the farmers in Belgium lived in great poverty at the end of the 19th century. They set up savings and credit cooperatives in Belgium based on the Raiffeisen principles.

      These local cooperatives were later called “Raiffeisen kassen”. The holding cooperative was first called the “Centrale Kas voor Landbouwkrediet” and later became “Centrale Raiffeisenkas”, which was shortened to CERA.

      CERA became a fully-fledged bank. In 1992, because it wanted to share its cooperative knowledge with the South, and on the occasion of its 100th anniversary, the bank founded the Belgian Raiffeisen Foundation. (When the KBC Bank Insurance Group was created in 1998, the banking activities of the CERA Bank were brought under KBC Bank NV and Cera Holding was created which later became what is known today as Cera.)

      Because poor people in the South have as much difficulty gaining access to financial services as the small farmers here in Belgium did at the end of the 19th century, BRS designed its services so that it could support savings and credit cooperatives in the South.

      The cooperative continues to adopt the Raiffeisen mental legacy today in the 21st century under the motto “Together supporting microfinance and microinsurance in the South”.