The earliest financial co-operatives date back to the beginning of the 19th century in England.
Rather than rely on bankers who charged impossibly high rates for borrowing, people got together to combine their savings, and lend to each other in order to build homes (which is where the term ‘building society’ originated) and to invest in their businesses.
A few decades later, credit unions took root in Germany to help farm labourers avoid the clutches of loan sharks when times were hard.
The credit union idea expanded to North America and the rest of the western world early in the 20th century, and since then, both credit unions and building societies have flourished.
The credit union movement that had started in Germany has now spread around the world, providing a genuine people’s bank for over 223 million customers in 109 countries.
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