We emerged from small agricultural cooperative banks, which were first founded by Dutch farmers and horticulturists in the late nineteenth century. These cooperatives were formed to provide credit for their members. This cooperative foundation and the cooperative philosophy have remained our guiding principles throughout our history.
The founding father of cooperative agricultural credit is Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen (1818-1888), a mayor in rural Germany. In the 1860s, he founded agricultural credit cooperatives that provided low-cost loans to farmers from savings collected from local communities. Raiffeisen's cooperative idea of standing strong together also took root in the Netherlands. From 1895 onwards the first Dutch cooperative agricultural banks were founded, which are now part of Rabobank.
From cooperative agricultural bank to Rabobank
Farmers and horticulturists in the Netherlands began to establish local cooperative agricultural banks, becoming owners, members and managers of the bank, and sharing responsibility accordingly. Rather than distributing annual profits to the members, these were added to the annual reserves, gradually building up a solid foundation for hard times and lean years.
Following Raiffeisen's model, in 1898 the first Dutch local banks established two umbrella organisations: the Coöperatieve Centrale Raiffeisen-Bank in Utrecht and the Coöperatieve Centrale Boerenleenbank in Eindhoven. These two organisations became the central bank and facilitator for their member banks. The two merged in 1972 to become Rabobank Nederland, a cooperative in which all local Rabobanks were both members and shareholders.
In 1900, the two central institutions had a total of 67 affiliated cooperative agricultural banks. This number increased and peaked at 1,324 in 1955. In subsequent decades local mergers reduced this number.
On 1 January 2016, Rabobank changed its cooperative structure and all 106 local Rabobanks and Rabobank Nederland merged into one cooperative bank operating under one banking licence. A new governance structure was also adopted with the aim of strengthening both Rabobank’s cooperative roots and its banking business.
Move to digital brings new services
The changing economy and society of the twentieth century increased the need for banking services. In the second half of the century, local Rabobanks welcomed an increasing number of (non-agricultural) businesses and later also private individuals, as customers. Advances in computing technology and ICT also contributed to this. Giro payments became hugely successful, initially in the form of large employers paying salaries by direct deposit instead of in cash. Small employers soon followed.
Subsequently, private individuals and others opened a bank account. Banks, meanwhile, introduced new services. Alongside savings and loans, customers could now also go to their banks for home mortgages, payment services, investments and insurance. For business clients, banks expanded their range of services, adding business financing, leasing, payment transactions and insurance.
In the 1960s, as their customer portfolios swelled, Dutch Raiffeisenbanks and Boerenleenbanken opened more and more branch offices in major cities and on new housing estates. With the advent of the ATM in the 1980s, the payment terminal in the 1990s and internet banking at the turn of the century, customer visits to banking premises declined, and with them the number of branch offices. In parallel new customer services were set up to meet these changing customer needs.
In the second half of the 20th century, specialised subsidiaries and associates took on new activities, among them Interpolis (insurance), De Lage Landen (leasing) and Robeco (asset management). These business units offered their products and services through local Rabobanks, but from a legal perspective were (and still are) subsidiaries or associates of Rabobank Nederland. Gradually, the Rabobank Group was born. Rabobank’s international activities began in the early 1980s, initially for business clients doing business around the world. The growth and expansion of the 1980s lead to the opening of bank offices in major financial centres and the acquisition of retail banks in agricultural areas such as Australia and the US state of California. In 2002, Rabobank launched International Direct Banking (IDB) to tap into the new opportunities the internet offered for savings and banking services for its new customers outside the Netherlands as well.
The composition of the Group has varied over time. Some subsidiaries and associates have been sold in recent years and while the activities of Dutch subsidiaries like Schretlen & Co and FGH Bank were integrated within Rabobank to consolidate its knowledge, expertise and network.
Focus on food & agri
Rabobank developed from a purely Dutch bank into an international financial services provider for its Dutch customers. To this day we continue to service international clients with a global network and a focus on the food & agri business. Rabobank is now a leading food & agri bank worldwide.
In Rabobank's digital sources archive you can search our collection of old magazines and annual reports , published by Rabobank and her predecessors, the Coöperatieve Centrale Boerenleenbank (CCB) en de Coöperatieve Centrale Raiffeisen-Bank (CCRB).