Intervista a Raymond Oliger

Le Banche popolari, attori glocal: intervista a Raymond Oliger

Le Banche popolari sono, da una parte, soggetti locali per i loro aspetti identitari (governance democratica e partecipativa) e i principi che ispirano la loro strategia operativa (mutualità e prossimità dell'attività di credito e promozione dello sviluppo economico e sociale della comunità territoriale in cui sono radicate); dall'altra, la globalizzazione pone ad esse sfide ed opportunità rilevanti (come la liberalizzazione del mercato dei capitali, la virtualizzazione delle relazioni bancarie derivante dagli avanzamenti nell'info-telematica) che possono incidere sulla loro specificità locale.

In proposito, proponiamo un'intervista al Dott. Raymond Oliger, Presidente della FNBP (Fédération Nationale des Banques Populaires) e Vice-Presidente International Confederation of Popular Banks (ICPB).

di Ilaria Pasotti*

Are the basic values of the mutual banks (such as the customer-ownership, the long-term orientation and a risk-averse view of the business) still suitable in the XXI century? b) And are they suitable for any region in the world?

R. a) I add to the basic values enlisted in the brankets the proximity to local community, the local-interregional involvement in the business activity, the solidarity and the ethical aims expressed in the way the business is run.

These values have been in the past and are going to be in the future at the core of the development and growth of mutual banks. The resilience of mutual banks in the last financial crisis demonstrates the validity of these values.


b) These basic values are surely suitable for any region in the world even if not in the same way. For instance, the beneficial contribution to the development of local economies, that comes from banks' ability to create relationships in the long-run with local business and community, is different among the regions according to the economic and financial context of the locality in which they operate. Moreover, the member participation in the governance raises questions related to the difficulties to the governance deriving from the large membership involved, the quality of the membership, and the degree of democratic development of the country concerned. One of the major challenges for mutual banks in the future is to design governance models that make possible an active involvement of membership in the banking business. 


There is an ongoing theory shift towards ideas of cooperation and shared valued in Economics alongside with the criticism to the dominant neoclassical paradigm. Against this background, the unique features and the role of cooperative banking model has also attracted the interest and attention of many academics. Is the ICBP interested in promoting a dialogue with researchers and academics on these issues?


R. Yes, there is an interest. Looking at the French experience, the FNBP is creating fruitful links with some Universities. In particular, the FNBP is financing a research program on micro-credit at the University of Nantes. It also promotes a panel on cooperative governance in collaboration with Prof. Eric Lamarque of the Sorbonne Graduate business school at the next International Summit on cooperatives in Quebec city. The issue at stake is to study in proof the governance and the spirit of the business model. 


In response to the pressure of increased competition and globalization, mutual banks are called to consider the need to make evolutionary steps such as their internationalization, the creation of a complex new network of subsidiaries, their diversification into corporate and investment banking. How could these challenges be tackled without affecting the fundamental principles related to the supervision and the governance of the mutual banks?


R. Mutual banks could make the evolutionary steps suggested above. Yet, I do not consider them as necessary or obligatory for their development and growth. The challenges posed by the globalization can be tackled by creating and boosting links and networks among mutual banks in the different countries in order to share and protect their basic values over the boundaries, to adapt similar governance for all because at the heart of the business model (the participation of members, …), and finally to support members' transanational business activities (especially, the SMEs internationalisation).


In order to prevent a repeat of the behavior that led to the banking collapse in 2007-2008, policy-makers moved towards a strengthening of the existing regulatory framework at international level (Basel III). Some argue (as reported in Birchall, 2013) that the new regulations do not take into account the distinctive nature of mutual banks. What is the CIBP's position?


R. It is true: Basel III does not take into account the distinctive nature of mutual banks. But the real question is: how should be the international regulation for mutual banks? For instance, Basel III has declared that it is necessary to strengthen banks' capital requirements. Yet, the solvency requirements should not be a problem for mutual banks since they are able to raise capital from members who each subscribe to a member share that until now has been considered to be cooperative capital. Accordingly, solvency criteria should not be stronger for mutual banks than commercial banks. After the financial crisis, only few mutual banks had to accept government assistance and its assistance was limited to cover the losses incurred in their investment banking arm (as it happened in France with the loan provided by the government agency responsible for the banks, the State Shareholding Corporation, to Caisse d'Epargne and Banques Populaires to cover the losses of their jointly owned investment arm, Natixis). 

Another question is whether there should be a specific financial regulation for mutual banks, as there is in Canada. 


How can technology and info-telematics progress be an opportunity for the cooperative business model?


R. Mutual banks must integrate technology and info-telematics progress in their business

model. Yet, these progress must not substitute personal relationship and proximity, that are mutual banks' basic values - even if they have costs. The goal is not to close offices or to create specific digital banks. The goal is to offer the best of both systems, keeping branches open (especially in a situation such as it is the current one) and keeping internet access.

*Ilaria Pasotti è collaboratrice di ricerca presso il CRANEC, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milano.