Financial services cooperatives (FSCs) hold a significant place in the economy of many countries. The roles they play in the economic development, the stabilization of the financial industry and the offer of financial services in some regions and to less favored clienteles set them apart from commercial banks. These roles are the result of institutional characteristics of their own (constitution of an indivisible social capital, democratic representation, surplus divided by activity, etc.). For this reason, they are the subject of specific research, either by FSCs themselves, by academic researchers, or by development or regulatory agencies.
The scarcity of comparable data
The challenge currently facing those interested in research on FSCs is the scarcity of comparable data and the poor dissemination of researches. Access to these researches is difficult because of both their scattering and the absence of international organizations centralizing this information. Researches on FSCs are either published in journals of very heterogeneous disciplines or produced in “grey” literature that is not published or poorly disseminated by the FSCs or other organizations. As a result, many observers are unaware of the importance of FSCs in a large number of countries around the world, as well as of their specific roles in the economic development, the stabilization of the financial industry and the offer of financial services in sectors and regions where access to credit is limited.
Mission and objectives
Following a feasibility study under the direction of researchers Benoît Tremblay and Inmaculada Buendía Martínez, the Desjardins Center of HEC Montréal decided, with the agreement of the Desjardins Group, to create the International Observatory on Financial Services Cooperatives (IOFSC).
The mission of the IOFSC is to contribute to the development of the scientific analysis of the FSCs and of their environment by providing academic and institutional researchers access to existing knowledge and relevant data. To achieve its mission, the IOFSC has three objectives:
Identify, acquire, organize, preserve and exploit information on FSCs;
Disseminate information and research on FSCs by means of user-friendly tools;
Provide quantitative and qualitative data processing services.
The IOFSC aims to make available qualitative and quantitative information on FSCs at the international level through its Web portal.