Seventy-five years after its founding, The Co-operative Central Bank
The Co-operative Central Bank was established on March 2, 1932 by the state legislature “as a measure of relief in the existing financial emergency … for the immediate preservation of the public convenience.”
The new Bank was to be wholly owned and operated by the state’s
In 1932, the average annual wage was $1,850; the average cost of a new house was $6,510. But the average American did not have a job, or any hope of buying a home. Fifteen million people were unemployed; thousands were homeless and penniless. The country was in the throes of the Great Depression.
When The Co-operative Central Bank was established, the nation’s banking system was approaching total collapse. More than 5,000 banks had failed, victims of their own investments in the stock market, their depositors’ panic to retrieve their savings, and their loan customers’ inability to meet their debt. The whole country was reeling, unable to recover from the stock market crash of 1929 and all that led up to it, and all that followed. It was a time of total despair.
Less than a year after The Co-operative Central Bank came to be, newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared a national “bank holiday,” halting all transactions in an attempt to curb deposit runs and restore the public’s faith in the banking system. The President assured Americans that only strong, secure and stable institutions would prevail when the ban was lifted.
Many banks never opened their doors again. However – fortified by The Co-operative Central Bank – every Massachusetts co-operative bank was allowed to reopen. No co-operative bank customer lost money during those tumultuous years, or since.
That is perhaps the proudest legacy of the co-operative banking movement and of The Co-operative Central Bank. The introduction of The Co-operative Central Bank Share Insurance Fund in 1934 further strengthened the appeal of, and the public’s confidence in, co-operative banks throughout the state by providing protection for depositors. The Share Insurance Fund was the second major milestone of The Co-operative Central Bank’s illustrious 75-year journey.
A LONG HISTORY
The history of co-operative banking goes back some 130 years, a full 55 years before the creation of The Co-operative Central Bank.
In his 1948 chronology of co-operative banking in Massachusetts, Oreb M. Tucker, the treasurer of The Co-operative Central Bank at the time, describes how the tireless efforts of the Honorable Josiah Quincy, a prominent Bostonian, resulted in enabling legislation that created the state’s first 10 co-operative banks, in 1877.
These mutual associations had a common goal: to “inculcate habits of systematic thrift and to promote home ownership among our citizens.” The
LESS IS MORE
While consolidations, mergers and conversions to Federal charter status chipped away at the number of co-operative banks over the years, the steady asset growth of its member banks has continually intensified The Co-operative Central Bank’s critical guardianship role.
Today, The Co-operative Central Bank is still operated and wholly owned by all Massachusetts co-operative banks, solely for the mutual benefit of all of their depositors. The Bank remains a source of cash reserves, and provides insurance in full of deposits under Massachusetts law.
Co-operative banks are regularly examined by federal and state banking agencies for compliance with safe and sound banking practices. Should financial difficulties arise, The Co-operative Central Bank is positioned to help facilitate a merger, or restructure a member bank to sound condition.
There are a number of additional checks and balances that make the state-chartered co-operative bank system one of the safest and soundest in the country. These include:
While member co-operative banks today provide their depositors with Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) coverage up to the first $250,000 of “self-directed” retirement accounts and the first $100,000 of deposits in each other ownership category, excess amounts are insured without limit by the Share Insurance Fund of The Co-operative Central Bank.
This unique combination of coverage means that all deposits in member banks are insured in full, dollar-for-dollar, without restriction. The Co-operative Central Bank has used lessons from the past to secure state-chartered co-operative banks for the future.
As it celebrates 75 years of service, The Co-operative Central Bank is an organization of 65 member banks with assets totaling over $13 billion, serving customers in cities and towns across the Commonwealth.