We emerged from an alliance of small agricultural cooperative banks founded by farmers and horticulturists beginning in the late nineteenth century. Formed to provide credit for their members. This cooperative foundation and the philosophy of cooperation underpinning it have remained our guiding principles throughout our over 115-year history.
The founding father of cooperative agricultural credit is Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen, a German rural mayor in the latter half of the nineteenth century. In the 1860s, he founded an agricultural credit union that extends local farmers credit from savings collected from local communities. Raiffeisen’s concept of the credit cooperative soon takes root in the Netherlands and the first agricultural cooperative banks in this country appear in 1895.
From agricultural cooperative bank to Rabobank
The ideal of standing stronger together catches on in the Netherlands and across the Dutch countryside farmers and horticulturists begin establishing their own local agricultural cooperative banks. They become owners, members and managers of the bank, sharing responsibility accordingly. Rather than paying out the profits to the members, they are added to the reserves year by year, gradually building up a solid foundation for hard times and lean years.
Following Raiffeisen’s model, by the end of the nineteenth century 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 become the central bank for the local banks and play a facilitating role in a number of areas. The two merge in 1972 to become Rabobank Nederland, a cooperative in which all local Rabobanks are members and shareholders. They remain so to this day.
In 1900, the two central institutions had a total of 67 affiliated agricultural cooperative banks. At its high point in 1955, there were 1,324. From that point on, local mergers reduced the number of local banks dramatically and within a few years from now the organisation will consists of approximately one hundred local Rabobanks.
Move to digital brings new customers
Over the course of the 20th century, the originally small credit cooperatives of farmers and horticulturists are rooted in village and town. But gradually, the changing economy increases the demand for banking services in all sectors of society.
In the latter half of the century, the bank begins welcoming an increasing number of (non-agricultural) businesses and later also private individuals, as customers. It is advancements in computing technology and ICT that make this possible. Giro payments, an early form of electronic payment, become hugely successful, initially in the form of larger employers paying salaries by direct deposit instead of in cash. Smaller employers soon followed.
Subsequently, private individuals more commonly began paying cashless. Banks, meanwhile, introduce new products, such as payment cheques and giro collection forms. Alongside savings and loans, customers could now also go to their banks for home mortgages, payment services, investment and insurance. For business clients, the banks expand their range of services, adding business financing, leasing, payment transactions and insurances.
Trusted name on the street and online
In the 1960s, as the banks’ customer portfolios swell, the Raiffeisen and Agricultural Cooperative Banks opened more and more branch offices in the big cities and 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, customers come in to the bank less and less and the number of branch offices declines.
The continued rise of the internet drives new changes and for both business and private banking customers Rabobank is consistently a leader in offering banking products and services through the virtual channels that we now take for granted.
Subsidiaries and associates
In the second half of the 20th century, specialised subsidiaries and associates take on new activities, among them Interpolis (insurances), De Lage Landen (leasing) and Robeco (asset management). These business units offer their products and services through local Rabobanks, but from a legal perspective are subsidiaries or associates of Rabobank Nederland. Gradually, the Rabobank Group is born.
The group’s first international activities begin in the early 1980s, initially for business clients doing business internationally. The growth and expansion of the 1980s sees the bank opening offices in major financial centres and taking over retail banks in agricultural areas such as Australia and the US state of California. In 2002, Rabobank launches International Direct Banking (IDB), to tap into the new opportunities the internet offers for savings and banking services.
Big in food & agri
We have developed from a purely Dutch bank into an international financial services provider for our Dutch customers. Today, we are also made up of international clients and our network covers the world. But we still focus primarily on the food & agri business in which we began and in which our vast experience offers the greatest added value. This is what has enabled us to grow into an international leader in this sector.”
*Information from Rabobank.com