Rabobank Group has its roots deep in Dutch soil. Founded as a cooperative of Dutch agricultural banks in 1898, the company has some 140 member banks that have about 875 branches in the Netherlands and dozens of subsidiaries around the world that focus on the food, agribusiness, and financial industries. The cooperative's wholesale and international retail banking arm, Rabobank International, has offices in some 30 countries. Other global activities include trade and commodity finance. In the US, Rabobank owns California-based Rabobank, N.A. and agribusiness lender Rabo AgriFinance. Rabobank Group is owned by its member banks.
While Rabobank has to vie with competitors such as ING Groep in most areas of domestic banking, it has a near-stranglehold on the agricultural loan market in the Netherlands. Other significant operations include mortgage lending, asset management, leasing, insurance, real estate services, and lending to small and midsized domestic business customers. Rabobank Group also operates retail banks ACCBank in Ireland and Poland's BGZ Bank (nearly 60% owned). It sold its controlling stake in Swiss private bank Sarasin to Safra Group in 2012.
Subsidiary Rabo Development supports the group's international expansion by investing in financial institutions in developing nations. Through the development program, the company takes significant minority stakes in retail and rural banks and provides management and administrative support. The initiative has invested in about a half-dozen banks in Africa and China. In another international growth initiative, Rabobank has ramped up efforts to lend to agribusinesses in China through its Beijing and Shanghai offices.
Rabobank reported a 5% increase in income for 2011. However, its profits fell by some 5% (about €2.8 billion to €2.6 billion, or $3.6 billion to $3.4 billion), largely due to higher operating expenses and an increase in bad debt costs.
Despite the global economic turmoil (or perhaps because of it), Rabobank has increased its loan portfolio each year from 2007 to 2011 while the Dutch economy sputtered and credit markets remained tight. The company was able to expand its lending activities thanks to its stringent underwriting standards, one of the highest credit ratings in the financial services industry, and by maintaining its focus on lending to the relatively stable food and agribusiness sectors.
In 2012 the company gained control of Friesland Bank, which has been struggling with its capital levels and losses related to bad loans. Friesland, which began lending to farmers in 1913, was previously affiliated with Rabobank until 1962. – less