Banca Popolare Etica was created in 1999 by a big coalition of the major italian social organizations who wanted to create a place where savers, driven by the common desire of a more transparent and responsible management of financial resources, may meet socio-economic initiatives, inspired by the values of a sustainable social and human development.
The bank´s roots are to be found in the third-sector organisations, of voluntary work and of international cooperation. The first experience of ethically oriented finance in Italy is represented by the MAG cooperative societies (self-management mutual associations). Their traditional aim is to raise savings among their members and to finance socially oriented projects. Pushed by some new legal rules in the 1990s, some of the organizations involved in the ethically oriented finance initiated a fundraising campaign in December 1998 in order to obtain a banking license. This was the first time that a banking institution, with the purpose of operating exclusively in sustainable and alternative finance, filed a request and obtained such an authorisation in Italy. In March 1999, Banca Etica opened its first branch office in Padova. It has grown to 17 agencies, with 25 “ambulant” bankers and over 200 co-workers. Since 2002 the volume of savings and deposits more than doubled, the loan portfolio has quadrupled, and the net profit increased substantially between 2004 and 2007. During the financial and economic crisis Banca Etica has seen a considerable increase in the volume of customer deposits and loans.
Banca Etica is characterised by the principle of, a shareholder supremacy: when voting, all shareholders have the same power, regardless of the number of shares owned, according to the principle ‘one person, one vote’. Today, the bank counts on 90 local shareholder groups resulting in more than 37,000 shareholders.
Products and services include savings accounts, current accounts, debit and credit cards, affinity cards with organisations like Amnesty International, payment services and online banking.
Typically, Banca Etica´s focus is financing organisations operating within the third-sector that carry out civil society oriented economic projects, having the legal form of cooperative societies, associations or social institutions. In the last years, the bank has started to include working with profit organisations that are focused on organic food, green energy and employee buyout.