Founded 114 years ago by a small group of farmers in the Netherlands, the bank is a cooperative whose branches worldwide set policy and fund local startups, including many food cooperatives in developing countries. "We want to add value to the society we are in, not just with our money but with our network and our knowledge," says governance chief Vincent Lokin.
Rabobank does that by acting as a go-between. "We have direct access to large traders, processors, and distributors of food," Lokin explains. So the bank connects farmers in poor rural areas with global food supply chains "by linking them to our other customers, the larger companies." Although relatively small, Rabobank is both profitable and financially stable: It ranked 26th on The Banker's 2012 list of the Top 1000 World Banks, ahead of giants like France's Société Générale and Spain's BBVA.
The scrap heap is piled high with lousy cars. But a few famous flops deserve a little reconsideration.