Together you know more and achieve more. That is why we have been working with other cooperatives for decades – from banks to agricultural and horticultural associations – to be better heard as a group and share knowledge between us, and in this way keep improving our services.
Why we work together
Rabobank is the only bank in the Netherlands with a cooperative structure. However, there are other cooperative banks abroad. In the past, we have entered into partnerships with a number of those banks to enable us to refer customers with international operations if we ourselves were unable to offer appropriate services in a certain country. Nowadays, we work together with both cooperative banks and other cooperatives, to be able to present a united front towards government and other parties. This is becoming more and more important as a result of the ever-increasing regulations, requiring cooperatives (as well as other companies) to be able to indicate clearly what the implications are for them and what works best in practice.
Who we are working with
In the Netherlands, in addition to our involvement with cooperative partnerships, we are also part of other consultative structures and organisations. For example, we are a member of the Dutch Banking Association (NVB) and the Dutch Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers (VNO-NCW). Many of our cooperative partnerships have been in place for a long time already, but are relatively unknown. These are six examples of the wide range of partnerships in which we are involved:
European Association of Co-operative Banks
One voice in Brussels
- Founded/When: 1971
- What: Representing interests in Brussels and with other international institutions
- Who: Nearly all European cooperative banks
- Where: Europe
The EACB is the voice of the European cooperative banks, in Brussels and in other international forums. It represents the banks in dialogues with officials from the European Commission and the European Parliament, and international supervisors.
Together with five other cooperative banks, we founded the EACB in order to direct attention toward the cooperative banks' distinctive business model and governance. The establishment of the EACB coincided with the drawing up of the First European Banking Directive, which formed the basis for a more coordinated and harmonised banking sector. This Directive can be considered the first step toward what would later become the Banking Union. For the cooperative banks, it was an important moment, as the Banking Directive specifically addressed the legalities relating to the cooperative structure of banks. In the years that followed, the EACB gained new members with the enlargement of the European Union. The EACB's focus is largely on retail banking and shaping the supervision of banks.
Unico Banking Group
Commercial cooperation within Europe
- Founded/When: 1977
- What: Commercial cooperation and information-sharing
- Who: Crédit Agricole, DZ Bank, Raiffeisen Bank International, Rabobank, Iccrea Banking Group, OP-Pohjola, Banco Cooperativo Español and Raiffeisen Group.
- Where: Europe-wide and international partnerships with cooperative and commercial parties
Unico is a commercial partnership of eight European cooperative banks. In the late 1970s, the process of internationalisation in the financial sector began gaining momentum, with the eight members not yet having strong networks of their own abroad. They therefore began working together in areas such as payments, the flow of documentation and capital market transaction/syndications. The banks involved also referred customers to one another on occasions when a customer could be better served by a partner bank abroad.
In the past, there was talk of intensifying the cooperation within Unico and forming a European cooperative, though this did not actually come about. An attempted merger between the German DG Bank, a central institution for the German Volksbanken und Raiffeisenbanken cooperative banks, and parts of Rabobank International in the late '90s/early '00s failed largely because of the differences in structures and cultures between the banks. A merger also did not make economic sense, as there were considerable differences between the national markets for financial services in Europe. This is still the case; Unico's added value lies mainly in the network, and in projects which allow banks to make use of each other's expertise.
The Dutch Council for Cooperatives (NCR)
Knowledge hub for cooperatives in in the Netherlands
- Founded/When: 1934
- What: Disseminating knowledge and supporting the representation of interests
- Who: Cooperatives from primarily the agricultural and horticultural sectors
- Where: The Netherlands
The NCR is the Dutch association of cooperative organisations in the agricultural and horticultural sectors, financial services and the insurance industry. In 1934, negative perceptions about cooperatives among traders and medium-sized companies formed the reason for its establishment. From this moment on, the NCR represented the interests of the cooperatives, ensuring that they were able to take full part in economic life. The Netherlands was also in the middle of an economic crisis at the time; this, too, motivated the cooperatives to start working together more.
Nowadays, the NCR sees the dissemination of knowledge about cooperatives, and the provision of a platform for members to meet each other, as its most important tasks. In this, the NCR's links with the Chair in Cooperative Entrepreneurship at Wageningen University are instrumental. In addition, it is a member of the General Confederation of Agricultural Cooperatives in the European Union. This international relationship with COGECA is important for various reasons, including the Netherlands' strong position in the export of agricultural products.
International Co-operative Alliance & International Co-operative Banking Association
Representation at a worldwide level
- Founded/When: ICA in 1895, ICBA in 1922
- What: Representing cooperatives to the outside world and promoting cooperation
- Who: ICA – National cooperative federations, ICBA – Federations of cooperative banks, savings banks and credit unions
- Where: Worldwide
Since as early as 1895, the ICA has represented and championed the interests of cooperatives at an international level. In 1922, as a reaction to the global growth of the financial sector after the First World War, the ICA established a wing for cooperative banks, the International Co-operative Banking Association. The objective of the ICBA is to encourage collaboration between cooperative banks by, for example, organising seminars on ‘the role of cooperatives in the economy’, ‘the challenges of globalisation’, ‘the consequences of consolidation for cooperative banks’, and ‘the development of new cooperative banks’.
In 1968, the ICA began to establish regional branches; as of 1992, it has four regional branches: Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, and Europe. For Rabobank, both ICA and ICBA are relevant organisations to be working together with, not least because of their networks, and the links with Rabobank Foundation's own activities in Latin America and Africa.
International Raiffeisen Union
Passing on the history of the cooperative internationally
- Founded/When: 1968
- What: Spreading the cooperative philosophy and exchanging knowledge
- Who: A large number of Raiffeisen cooperatives worldwide
- Where: Worldwide
The International Raiffeisen Union (IRU) was established in 1968 on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Raiffeisen's birthday. It is a globally active association of cooperative organisations which work according to Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen's principles of self-help, self-responsibility and self-administration (Selbsthilfe, Verantwortung und Selbstverwaltung). More than 900,000 cooperatives and around 500 million members in 100 countries work according to these principles (for figures, see the side bar).
The IRU is actively involved in preserving the cooperative philosophy. Examples of topics that are discussed within the IRU are ‘the legal framework for establishing a cooperative’, ‘working together with supervisors’, and ‘how is the relationship between cooperatives and government developing?’. Representatives of cooperatives from all over the world participate in the IRU's meetings. It is notable here that there are large differences between the cooperatives, for example in scale, in levels of professionalisation and the organisational structure. A number of cooperatives are organised loosely as federations, and, on the other end of the spectrum, there are the organisations which have been integrated to a deep level, including Rabobank, with central product development, marketing and product support, and in which members take part in collective arrangements (such as a joint guarantee fund or a cross-guarantee system).
Bouke de Vries, Public Affairs Rabobank (email@example.com)