Published: 26 February 2019
The European project faces strong headwinds. Brexit provides a serious warning sign. Social movements in EU Member States are sprouting up in all shapes, sizes and colours. These events point to a reaction to rapid changes and disruptions caused by the cogs that move globalisation and technological breakthroughs that shape our lives. But there is pushback. Many feel isolated, left behind not only economically, but also politically and socially. There is common concern by people that the world is uprooting the cultural and social roots that have thrived at local and regional level. How can society address this integration and growth shortfall and boost people’s participation in economic and community life?
Savings and retail banks in 21 European countries can help answer this very question. Composed of roughly 1,000 banks and serving 190 million European citizens, they form the European Savings and Retail Banking Group (ESBG). Committed to Europe and the Single Market, they remain steadfast in the promise that the European Union makes all people in it stronger. They acknowledge that it ensures peace, fosters exchange across national borders and thereby promotes economic prosperity, something they care about deeply. For these and many other reasons, ESBG advocates for fair competition within the European Union. Quite important to mention is that savings and retail banks seek to contribute to a viable social consensus – one that will further strengthen the European Union, serving the interests of EU citizens by putting people and their values first rather than just shareholder value.
Regionally focused savings banks and locally focused retail banks make a substantial contribution to growth, stability and prosperity in Europe. They are part of the local infrastructure that opens up the potential for local economic and social development. By doing so, they buttress stability to local communities and provide local insight. Savings and retail banks are a major source of finance for families and individuals, small and medium-sized enterprises, community institutions and local infrastructure, opening up the potential for grass-roots development. In fact, one third of Europeans seeking banking services come to our member banks. ESBG members have some €450 billion in SME loans on their books in the European Union, roughly equal to a third of the market.
This locally focused banking model is the cornerstone of a properly functioning economic machine. That is achieved through regional structures through efforts to ensure good business conditions for SMEs and by facilitating access to financial services for everyone as a precondition for economic participation. Members contribute significantly to financing the real economy, and they ensure that modern banking services are also available in rural areas. This fuels competition throughout Europe, which is beneficial to customers and fosters more equitable living conditions in EU regions. An essential structural element of the European economic and social model, they can help to create a favourable environment for long-term economic growth that is inclusive and sustainable.
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