Crédit Agricole can trace its history back to the end of the 19th Century, and specifically to the Act of 1884 establishing the freedom of professional association, which authorised, among other things, the creation of farm unions and the foundation of local mutual banks. Société de Crédit Agricole was created on 23 February 1885 at Salins-les-Bains in the district of Poligny in the Jura region. It was the first of its kind in France. Drawing on this experience and in an effort to promote lending to small family farms, the Act of 5 November 1894, which had the support of Minister for Agriculture Jules Méline, paved the way for the creation of Crédit Agricole’s Local Banks. The first Local Banks were set up by local elites, including agronomists, teachers and property owners, with farmers playing a minority role. In the early years, business was made up exclusively of short-term loans provided as advances on harvests, enabling farmers to live more comfortably. Medium-term and long-term loans were added later, making it possible to buy equipment and livestock. The 1894 Act did not confer any financial advantages, and the Local Banks soon faced financial problems, such as a lack of capital and insufficient collateral from small farmers. It was not until 1897 that the government addressed these problems by requiring the Banque de France to provide funding to Crédit Agricole through an endowment of 40 million gold francs and an annual fee of 2 million francs. A year later, the Act of 1898 resolved the collateral issues. Meanwhile, the Act of 31 March 1899 instituted a commission within the Ministry for Agriculture to distribute the government advances between the Regional Banks, which were also created at this time. These cooperative entities brought together the Local Banks in their catchment area and acted as their clearing organisations.
Today, Crédit Agricole, sometimes called the “Green Bank” because of its historical ties to farming, is a French network of cooperative and mutual banks comprising the 39 Crédit Agricole Regional Banks. In 1990, it became an international full-service banking group. It is listed through its holding company, Crédit Agricole S.A., on Euronext Paris’ first market and is part of the CAC 40 stock market index. In 2013, the Crédit Agricole Group reported revenues of €26.4 billion. It was the title sponsor of the Crédit Agricole professional road cycling team from 1998 to 2008.