It is one of the banks most famous of the German federal Republic : Raiffeisenbank Gammesfeld, Baden-Württemberg, has been the subject of a documentary in 2002. This tiny mutual bank, which manages the funds and distributes the credit among the 500 inhabitants of the village of Gammesfeld, has a balance of 31 million euros.
All the operations are performed by hand. Its director is the sole employee. Both accountant and secretary, he sometimes even moving from time to time for a new broom. The Raiffeisenbank Gammesfeld is not even the smallest bank of Germany. It is the common Struvenhütten, in Schleswig-Holstein, who holds the current record : the record of his mutual bank is 16 million euros.
These micromaisons of local credit explain why Germany has more banks on its territory. About 1 700 schools in the country, 970 are mutual banks. The largest, the Deutsche Apotheker – und Ärztebank, Düsseldorf has a record of 36 billion euros, but the vast majority of these institutions is less than 5 billion euros.
The Germans are still culturally very attached to the idea of the money managed by a community of investors on a limited geographical area. The members of this network bank like to remind that this model, born in the Nineteenth century, survived two world wars and the monetary crisis of 1923. They did not need the help of the State during the financial crisis of 2008-2009. The banks of the mutualist network have supported on their own central institute, the DZ Bank, then in difficulty. “Help for self-help” is the motto of its founders.
Revenge of the province
Long considered anachronistic, the mutual banks are defending tooth and nail their model. And strive to be blameless : to lower their costs, they have reduced their structures…