Founded in 1892 as a cooperative inspired by the German mayor and philanthropist Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen, Cera is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs through a jointly-owned and democratically controlled enterprise.
“Co-operatives are in other words businesses in which the fulfilment of common goals is essential”, Franky Depickere, Chief Executive Officer of Cera, explains.
Starting in 1892 as a small savings bank, a century later, Cera became a full-blown bank, merging in the KBC group in 1998 and since then continuing its way as a cooperative financial holding company. Inspired by the values of Raiffeisen, Cera together with its 400.000 members now works to guarantee the financial sustainability and long-term development of KBC Group. They are also united behind important social goals, investing into valuable community projects at a regional, national and international level.
“We are celebrating our 125th anniversary, and one of our core issues is the promotion of the cooperative enterprise. We are convinced that the cooperative model is the key to the development of the economy” Franky Depickere points out.
The local economies in Brussels (KBC Brussels) and Wallonia (CBC Banque soon headquartered in Namur)have benefited from the fact that the decision centres for the KBC group, in which Cera is the largest stakeholder, are located in Belgium. “We take pride in the fact that we are creating job opportunities for young people and the local economies and we are present in all parts of Belgium: in Brussels, Walloon, Flanders and the German part”, Franky Depickere says.
The ‘Belgium Raiffeisen Foundation’ (BRS) was established in 1992, with the aim to support micro finance and micro insurance projects which help improve the quality of life of marginalised groups in a sustainable way.
After the world economic and financial crisis, Cera’s targets are focused on empowering young people, to which they have devoted their Next Generation project. “In the past three years, we have enlarged and strengthened, we have a strong capital base and membership, and our main aim now is to attract and keep young people on board, thinking for the next generations”, Franky Depickere highlights.
Cera is renowned for its encouragement of the cooperative model and spirit, guiding 40-50 organisations per year and supporting the creation of new ones.
The consortium has managed to overcome a number of crises in its long history, demonstrating the strength and endurance of cooperative entrepreneurs. “We are a strong financial holding, which takes its social responsibilities seriously. My message is that we have proved that locally anchored organisations are crucial for the local economy. We will continue to demonstrate that the cooperative model is working and we have our goals set for the long term”, Franky Depickere concludes.