Annual Q&A: Bhima Subrahmanyam, president, ICBA

‘Regulators should understand that co-operative banks were not involved in the type of activities that triggered the global financial crisis’

How was last year for you and for the International Cooperative Banking Association (ICBA)?

The last year for me and for ICBA was, in fact, more satisfying. It was also remarkable in terms of the involvement of members. The personal attention shown by the ICA president towards strengthening the co-operative banking sector, and his confidence in the ICBA to achieve its objectives, was most welcome. His presence at the ICBA events in Seoul, the Republic of Korea, in November 2021, and the release of the ICBA research publications was, indeed, highly satisfying.

We also marked our centenary celebrations with events in November, which paved the way for an appropriate strategic plan, and the ICBA has responded to the needs of World Cooperative Monitor both in terms of the Member of Advisory Council and as an ICA sectoral organisation.

The reconstituted ICBA has successfully completed three eventful years and received appreciation from all quarters.

What are your hopes for the future?

I hope that co-operative financial institutions/co-operative banks will be allowed to function based on their co-operative identity, values and ethics within the framework of ICA co-operative principles.

Related: ICBA celebrates centenary with Brussels conference

Proposals to amalgamate, mergers, and delayering should not directly or indirectly affect the very nature of co-operatives and their well-conceived structure. ICBA shall strive to ensure that the distinct identity of co-operatives is recognised and all the policy initiatives /measures to address co-operatives are in line with the co-operative principles.

We do hope the perceptions of regulators undergo drastic and appropriate changes towards co-operatives, particularly while imposing prudential norms. Regulators should understand that co-operative banks were not involved in the type of activities that triggered the global financial crisis. Despite that, the regulators are pushing co-operatives to work like commercial banks. We do hope this trend will be discontinued. We look forward to seeing regulations that recognise the spirit of co-operatives and also two centuries of hard work in reaching today’s level of business.

ICBA members have many expectations and we will address them most appropriately. We hope that the four regional ICA offices will continue to engage with sectoral organisations like the ICBA, and continue to support us as we in turn help to strengthen co-operative financial institutions. ICBA is very confident in achieving all the objectives set out and re-address the ICBA Statute, if need be.