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Connexus : Issue 39
14 Connexus NEWS Switch to fairness International Co-operative Alliance president Dame Pauline Green sees strong positives in the way the world’s co-operative banks have come through the global financial crisis. By MARGARET BOzIk Co-operative banking is experiencing a renaissance following the global financial crisis, says Dame Pauline Green, president of the International Co- operative Alliance. “ The statistics show co-operative financial institutions came through the collapse stronger,” she says. Because they have a system whereby they lend largely on deposits from members, financial co-operatives are much less likely to have invested in risky ventures such as subprime mor tgages, she says. “Our co-operative banks, credit unions and insurers came through the financial collapse with their asset base strengthened, with their deposits strengthened, with huge numbers [of people] switching accounts from corporate banks to co-operative banks because they perceive it as being fairer and more responsive to their needs.” Some of the biggest banks in France, Japan and Canada are co-operative banks that compete successfully with corporate financial institutions, she says. “If Australia’s co-operative banks aren’t big enough yet, the more people that switch to them, the bigger they will grow.” Dame Pauline, who v isited Austra lia in Februar y to mark the United Nations International Year of Co- operatives, says she was pleased to see the movement was maturing and moving from a purely state- based focus to working together to create a national voice. “If you are going to have an impact on your political decision-makers, it is important that you have a national voice. I was in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney, and in each place I got a very strong message that the movement is now ready to work together, which I thought was extremely heartening. “The other thing I saw which was very hopeful is that it looks as if you will get enabling federal legislation that will a llow co-operatives to trade more easily across state boundar ies, preventing discrimination against the co-operative model of business.” Serious businesses Many people, particularly young people, are unhappy with the “unfairness” of the world economy and are looking to relate in economic terms to their own local environment, says Dame Pauline. “In the wake of the global financial ...the world is looking for business models to strengthen economies, generate jobs and support communities – and the co- operative model is that alternative. Dame Pauline Green is president of the International Co-operative Alliance Internationally, the top 300 co- operatives are worth more than uS$1.6 trillion. These are serious businesses with scale The Asia-Pacific nations represented in the Group of 20 alliance of finance ministers ... economies that are still largely thriving Co- operative businesses in Australia have more than 7.5 million customer owners and generate more than $15 billion in annual turnover STrENGTh IN NumBErS