Cultura Bank’s main task is to finance projects which benefit society and contribute to a better natural environment. The bank emphasises building alliances between depositors and lenders and to underpin this it practises transparency as a carrying principle. It strives to offer high quality, solid banking services and be able to offer a healthy and sustainable return to shareholders. Furthermore, the bank views promoting financial literacy as an important task and takes an active part in public discourse about the function of money and the economy.
Cultura was founded as a savings and loan cooperative in 1986 and obtained a full licence as a savings bank in 1996. Since then the bank has grown from a total asset base of just €5 million to €55 million today. The founders of the bank wanted to channel funds to organic farming. At the time this was considered risky and shunned by conventional banks. They also took special interest in private initiatives in the cultural sphere, in particular in education.
Since then the activities of the bank have broadened to include small enterprises involved in fair trade, traditional crafts, and distribution of various ecological products. From the beginning the bank has relied solely on funding itself through customer deposits. The bank’s equity consists of a core fund and capital issued through an equity-like instrument called equity certificates, specially designed for savings banks. The governing body of the bank is elected by four groups; the customers, the equity certificate owners, the employees and one representative designated by the local authorities.
Cultura Bank offers a comprehensive range of banking services to companies and private individuals. About 65% of total outstanding loans are business related. Education (private schools) and agriculture are the two largest areas. Other important groups are healthcare and various small and medium size companies.
During the last few years the bank also has built a portfolio of housing loans, which are increasingly focussed on ecological building. Apart from ordinary loans the bank also offers overdrafts and guarantees. Internet banking and debit cards complete the product range on payment services.
Since 2005 the bank has been active in microfinance. Since 2007 it has been a partner in the CIP program of the European Investment Fund, providing a backup guarantee facility for this group of loans.