Cooperatively owned Raiffeisen banks first emerged in the Netherlands in the late 1890s and spread rapidly across the country. Using a new dataset, we investigate the determinants of their market entry and early performance. We find the cooperative organisational form, when allied to a change in the structure of Dutch agriculture and the socioreligious pillarisation of Dutch society, was an important factor explaining their entry into rural financial markets. While religious organisations provided a necessary impetus for the emergence of Raiffeisen banks, the economic advantages associated with cooperative enterprises ensured the subsequent survival and success of these banks.
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