Together supporting microfinance
and microinsurance in the South

Cooperative banking

Working together. Living together. Dreaming together.
Our vision is founded on the notion of “together”. 

As is evident from the word “cooperative”.
And “cooperative banking”.

Because when it comes to the banking and insurance world too, we believe in the power of cooperation, of solidarity and of respect for the individual.

More than a structure: a vision

We are less interested in the specific legal structure of a cooperative. What interests us more is the cooperative vision that underpins the structure.

It is the real beating heart of the cooperative’s activities.

The following elements are part of the cooperative spirit:

  • Most cooperatives are founded when people decide to take action themselves and find a solution together for their problems.
  • Cooperating in a cooperative is a testimony of one’s belief in one’s capabilities.
  • A cooperative initiative also means that people take responsibility themselves: to find a solution to problems and for the company that they create together.
  • A cooperative also means: strict rules as regards control and monitoring.
  • The principles of democracy, equality and fairness guarantee that the power of the cooperative really remains in the hands of the members.
  • These rules also ensure that the cooperative does not become an instrument of financial speculation.

The structure underpinning the vision

The cooperative spirit is the most important aspect. But how is it translated into definitions and structures?
What is a cooperative?

Self-organisation for common needs

A cooperative is a form of self-organisation.
The members organise themselves to meet a number of common needs.
The members are called partners. They each contribute part of the capital

People are at the heart of the cooperative

The emphasis is on people in the cooperative. Profit is not the main objective but helps to guarantee the organisation’s sustainability.

This means that a cooperative’s economic activity is not first and foremost aimed at financial profit or personal enrichment. Instead it is designed to solve a problem which its members face.

Three pillars

A cooperative is founded on three pillars:

  • a shared need
  • not merely for profit
  • democratic management founded on the principle of “one member – one vote”. 

What makes a cooperative so special?

Everyone has a say!
That is what makes a cooperative so special. And this principle intervenes at every level.

Cooperation

As you can tell from the word, a cooperative is founded on cooperation.

This cooperation is based on a formal arrangement: the cooperative’s members each contribute part of the capital. As a result they all own a part of the cooperative.

One individual, one vote

All the members together make up the cooperative’s General Assembly. The General Assembly makes the main decisions.

As a result the power in a cooperative is not in hands of the individual who contributes the most capital but the “one individual, one vote” principle applies

Client and owner

What is so unique about a savings and credit cooperative is that the clients also own their company.

As owners they own the company and make decisions. As members they use the cooperative to provide for their own needs

Cooperative banking to combat poverty

“We do together what we are too small to do alone.”
F.W. Raiffeisen made history with this simple yet powerful motto.

In the nineteenth century, this German mayor founded the first savings and credit cooperatives for farmers as part of his battle to combat famine and reduce poverty.

These cooperatives were founded on mutual solidarity and succeeded in helping the poor to break free from poverty more effectively and in a more dignified manner than charity.

From then on cooperative banking was widely adopted!

Many countries soon followed Raiffeisen’s example.
Savings and credit cooperatives were also founded in Belgium. They were called Raiffeisenkassen. They would subsequently become a fully-fledged bank, CERA Bank.

The origin of BRS is firmly rooted in this history and over the years we developed our know-how and our expertise.

Also in the twenty-first century!

Savings and credit cooperatives continue to be relevant in the twenty-first century.

In the South the poor also experience the same problems as nineteenth-century Belgian farmers when it comes to having access to financial services.

Microfinance and microinsurance institutions, which are founded on a cooperative basis, combat poverty here.

The cooperative principles of solidarity, cooperation and respect for the individual once again prove their worth: they also succeed in turning the tide in the South.

Want to know more about the history of cooperative banking?

Want to know more about cooperatives?