Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen

The Raiffeisen Group banks dates back to mid-19th century when the first co-operatives and loan societies appeared in order to support farmers at a time of famine and economic breakdown. Raiffeisen Group was founded by Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen (1818-1888). As a mayor of a number of villages in the German Westerwald province in mid 19th century, he concentrated his efforts on helping peasants in their fight for survival, setting up charitable co-operatives. Soon, however, F. W. Raiffeisen realised that the Christian principles of charity were not effective enough and that organised self-help would be more beneficial in achieving his goal. In 1862, he founded the first banking co-operative in Anhausen (Germany), which became a prototype for Raiffeisen banks. The first Raiffeisenbank opened in Austria in 1886 and ten years later the total number of banks in Austria had reached 600. Today, Austria’s Raiffeisen Banking Group is the country's most powerful, with the largest retail banking network and approximately one-quarter of the domestic banking business.