Cooperative banks perform a strong role in the EU economies and the banking sectors. In 2015, an Italian reform forced the Italian cooperative banks with assets higher than 8 billion euros to leave their mutual nature (one head one vote) and to transform in limited companies. The rationale underlying this law would support the idea that corporation is a superior banking model than the cooperative one, at least for larger banks. However, in many European countries (France, Germany, The Netherlands, Finland, etc.), large cooperative banks still operate and represent leading banks in national and international economies. Using a sample of 253 European commercial banks, of which 68 cooperatives, from 8 European countries, where the cooperative model is important (as it was in Italy, before the reform), we found that in 2019 larger cooperative banks (i.e., with assets higher than 8 billion euros) have lower systematic and business risk, better asset quality, are more oriented to finance the local real economy as well as to satisfy their customers (borrowers and depositors) rather than their shareholders, in comparison with comparable non-cooperatives. In addition, they are more homogeneous among them and adopt a stable and recognizable business model, no matter if they differ in size. Therefore, more than 10 years after the 2008 crisis, they still represent a good model of financial sustainability.
Venanzi, D., Matteucci, P. (2021). The largest cooperative banks in Continental Europe: a sustainable model of banking. THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND WORLD ECOLOGY, 28(5), 1-14 [10.1080/13504509.2021.1919784].