A short History of Bronte
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Bronte's history, together
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The Mutual Bank
The Mutual Agrarian Bank
Founded in 1912 for ninety years he supported the Bronte's
the first years of ‘900 the precarious economic situation, the lack of
capital sums available at a reasonable cost, the poverty and the miserable
condition of the peasants of Bronte made it necessary to create small
cooperative credit institutes, founded by local priests to sustain the
needy agricultural classes.
Their purpose, besides the economic, civic and religious advantages for
the partners, was to offer, together with the money lending, some help to
The first institute, founded in 1903,
was The Mutual Agricultural Bank Nicola
Spedalieri; with only three members (Nunzio Salanitri, Antonino
Biuso and Zerbo Salvatore).
The purpose of the company was the social and economic improvement of its users and, depending on availability, without
any gain or speculation in mind, helping the poorest in the town by
lending some money when necessary ...”
It was active for nearly 40 years: In 1909 the members, small property
owners, farmers, tenant farmers and laborers were 202. Between its
presidents there is also father Giuseppe
Salanitri, founder of the Piccolo Seminary.
After the second world war was put into liquidation and wound up.
Subsequently, in 1907, Carmelo
Schilirò of Carmelo, Schilirò Carmelo of Mario, Antonino Alessandro, Pasquale Longhitano e
Portaro Giuseppe founded The Agricultural Loans
and Deposits Bank: it provided also loans in kind and had the
same attributes of the original agricultural bank, (in addition it had a
religious improvement and many more requirements for admission as a member:
could be admitted only people “who had professional abilities and catholic
religion,..”). Witness of the constitutive act were the priests Mariano
Rossi and Domenico Cariola.
To save the needy from the usurer’s claws, in 1910
Francesco Cimbali founds The
Enrico Cimbali Deposits and Loans Popular Bank of which was
also, for many years, President. Gave to it the name of his brother
Enrico, great jurist who had died very young in 1887.
The head office of
the bank was located in Ospedale Vecchio street and one of its president
was the priest Domenico Cariola who had been one of the founders of the
Mutual Agricultural Bank but, since then, had come in disagreement with
the top management of the Bank.
In a country town of only 20 thousand inhabitants, the majority of which
were laborers, poor peasants “without a handkerchief of land” and
small artisans, was taking place a frenetic proliferation of credit
initiatives with welfare purposes and charity work to help the poor
The "Cassa Agraria di Mutuo"
(Mutual Agricultural Bank) was
founded five years later, the 26 May 1912,
“reigning Vittorio Emanuele Third for grace of God and by the will of
the nation King of Italy”, in substitution of The Agricultural
Deposits and loans Bank.
The gentlemen who wanted it were: “Ignazio Calì, Sanfilippo
Vincenzo, Portaro Giuseppe, Schilirò Vincenzo, Cariola Domenico,
Sanfilippo Francesco and Sofia Salvatore, all of them property owners,
born and resident in Bronte”. They set up a Cooperative Anonymous
Company with unlimited capital called «Mutual Agricultural Bank» whose
purpose was "the moral and material improvement of its members and
all workers in general, by lending to them the necessary funds, directing
them to work cooperation and assuming for them, without risk, work,
production or exchange enterprises”.
Can “belong” to the Company those who “accept the present
Statute; are land owners, or farmers, tenant farmers or sharecroppers;
domiciled or that keep frequent residence in Bronte, or that have in it
business relationship”. With a successive amendment in 1927 among
the requirements to be admitted as a member was added “to be obedient
to the catholic religion and to all the national institutions”.
To try to help the peasants and overcome the availability of capital at a
reasonable cost, the Bank could also operate according to laws (23.1.1887
and 29.3.1906 ) for Agricultural Credit and: grant to its members and
others, loans in kind or in money for one or more of the following reasons:
"a) for harvesting, b) for cultivation, c) for the seeds, d) for
fertilizers, e) for anti-cryptogamic chemicals and insecticides , f) to
provide the country estates of stock alive or dead, of agricultural tools
and machinery, g) and for any other reason specified in the article 20 of
the 29 March 1906 law”.
More than a third of the profit was to be spent in charity work; in the
article 60 of the Statute was in fact stated that ”the net profit of
the Bank, at the end of each social year, would be allocated as follows:
30% to the reserve fund, 35% to the members as dividend in proportion to
the invested shares. 35% would be
allocated by the management to charity work and publicity in accordance
to the spirit of the institution".
For some decades the charity work and the publicity were concrete
The construction and the opening of the Bronte’s
Hospital, devised by another priest, Giuseppe Prestianni
(1849-1924), rector of the Real
Capizzi College from 1892 to 1924, were also made possible by
the generous contributions of the Agrarian Bank that for some years
assigned large sums for the completion of the central building (balances
1921, 1922 and 1923 for a total of 28.000 lire).
Again in 1925 the Charity Congregation that was managing the
Hospital had a debt of 19.010,70 lire that was extinguished "with
an offer given by The Agrarian Mutual Bank on the balance of 1924 (for
17.000 lire) and additional generous donations by other institutions
The first financial year of the Agrarian Bank (1913)
was showing a social capital of 14.862,89 lire a fund-raising of 232.623,70 lire
and a net profit of 1.399,68 lire ( 366,74 of which were allocated to charity).
office of the Popular Bank of Bronte in a
photo of 1974 and in a china by Mario Schilirò.
In 1925 the Bank was still
managed by two priests: Benerdetto Ciraldo, president and Antonino
Zingale, deputy president; at closing balance had 62 share holders,
with a social capital of 227. 566,70 lire, deposits amounting to
5.031.390,85 lire, a profit of 70.578,68 ( of which 17.177,54 were
put aside for charitable work).
The original denomination of «Cassa
Agraria di Mutuo», (Mutual
Agrarian Bank) established by the social statute of 1912, was
changed to «Cassa di Mutuo»
(Mutual Bank) in 1933; afterwards
the 31st of March 1940 the name changed again in «Banca di Mutuo».
The fund that the management could allocate to charity
and publicity was reduced from 35% to 15% of the net profit.
The precarious economic conditions of Bronte populations were radically
changed and the ancient Mutual Agrarian Bank was gradually loosing
the original social purposes of moral improvement, and help to the
needy to become an actual business company.
The 30th of July 1950, to conform to the new rules of
law, the company was changed into a cooperative company property
limited, the nominal value of the shares was increased from 30
to 500 lire and the name modified again in «Banca
Mutua Popolare di Bronte». It was also fixed to 99
years the duration of the company from 26th of May 1912 to 25th
of May 2011.
Managed always with caution and inspired to healthy
principles, the ancient Agrarian Bank became in a short while a
powerful factor of social-economic growth for the small town at
the feet of Etna.
“In the spirit of cooperation” performed its credit
activity oriented to welfare, always “seriously and honestly”
and always ready to “favor, whenever possible, the needs of
all economic operators, applying rates inferior to what was
commonly charged by other credit institutes”.
Could be said that in favor of Bronte and of its poor local economy has
realized for nearly a century what the
Real Capizzi College did in the
cultural and educational fields.
During nearly a century of activity was guided by father Benedetto
Ciraldo, Luigi Margaglio, Nunzio De Luca, Vincenzo Calì (to
him and to Gino Isola, director for nearly twenty years, was due the
exceptional success reached by the institute during the last years),
by Nunzio Meli (from 1977 to
1996, who was also among the lord majors
of Bronte) and at present by the lawyer Pietro
In the relation to the balance
of 1974, the assessor Vincenzo
Cali’ (deputy president of the Bank since 1947 and president from
1962 to October 1977), stated with regret the “extremely poor
crop of almonds and oil, no increase in the cultivation of cereals
and pulses, unprofitable meat prices”, but reported something
positive about the newly established agricultural cooperative: the
“Smeraldo” (Emerald, sustained by the bank ) “that appears
to be reaching some good results in favor of the pistachio producers”.
the Bank, still with only one teller’s window in Bronte, assumed
the management of the Council treasury “not only to enlarge its
activities but also to demonstrate, in an actual way, its interest
towards the collectivity.”
In the same period the Bank,
since 1912 operating only within Bronte’s territory, started a
gradual expansion of its credit activity in nearby towns, opening
affiliated branches in Maletto (1977), Maniace (1981), San Teodoro
(1990), Catania (1990), Adrano, Giarre, Biancavilla.
Remained yet a Bank “with a sense of proportion” always careful
towards small local economies with which operated in perfect
symbiosis. Administrated with a persistent auto-financing policy and
great efficiency, its primary objective was not the profit only but
rather the social improvement and the strengthening of agricultural,
craftsmade and commercial activities of the areas in which it
In twenty years of activity (from 1962 to
1982) the Administrators brought the number of the
members share holders from 94 to 321, the social patrimony from 67
millions lire to nearly 4 billions and the profit from 12 million
and a half to one billion and 400 millions . The employees? Only 18,
up to the end of 1983!
In 1978 the extraordinary
members assembly made new changes to the social Statute, increasing
further the nominal value of the shares from 500 to 5000 lire.
11th of September 1994 the social Statute was again adapted to
the new law rules for credit and banking matters of 5th September
1993, n° 385. The trade name changed once again in
Popolare di Bronte» - Soc. coop. a r.l. (Popular Bank of Bronte
The life of the company extended to 25th of May
But it was only a dream; few years after, in 1998, after nearly
ninety years since its foundation, Bronte lost its well-deserving
institution: after long negotiations, the Popular Bank of Bronte
entered in fact in the credit group of the “Popular Bank of Lodi”.
The 4th of October 1998 the members general assembly, called
purposely to a meeting, changed the legal status of the Bank from a
company Pty. Ltd. to a Joint-stock Company;
was adopted a new
statutory text in keeping with the indications of the purchasing
the members accepted the public offer put by the Bank of Lodi
and transferred to the same over the 51 % of the share capital,
giving to the Lodi’ Bank the full control of the ancient “Mutual agrarian Bank”.
Vincenzo Calì, from 1947
and from 1962 at 1977 President of the Bank.
knight Giuseppe Interdonato coverei the position of Bank
Director until 19 59. Still at a young age was one of the
promoters of the foundation of the «Cassa» (Bank) .During
the war was also president of the Hospital Castiglione
Prestianni and lord major of Bronte having been elected
immediately after the war.
knight Gino Isola, for over twenty years director of
The acquisition offer launched by the Bank
of Lodi had, unfortunately, achieved a full and complete success!
In 1998 the Bank had nine branches installed in the provinces of
Catania and Messina with a total staff of only 61 dependents,
property worth nearly 30 billions with a direct fund-raising of over
175 billions, a rich real-estate, counters always crowded and, above
all, making profits (kept on producing profits since foundation; in
the last balance, of 1997, the profit was over two and a half
billions lire (nearly € 1.300.000).
The same year the Bank was
awarded the Premio XXIV Casali for the economy as "irreplaceable
point of reference for the Bronte economy".
Certainly in the general credit landscape represented a small
economic reality, it had been such for nearly a century for a
precise choice by the various administrators, however it was a solid
and healthy company, well established in its territory where didn’t
fear competition because of affectionate and faithful customer
The last board of directors of local origin accepted in 1998 “with
a clear satisfaction the positive result of the negotiations” which
represented “a strategic choice highlighted on the future
of the Bank”.
The selling reason?
The board of directors said: «The answer is simple: in a moment of total distress and of continuous social, juridical, economic, geographical
and financial evolution (not to say revolution) one must be careful, must
scan the horizon even for the small and most distant clouds, not to be caught unprepared by the smallest thunderstorm or the big storm.
words, to say it with a rather abused slogan, “one must make the right
choice at the right moment”. Only timeliness can allow us to be protagonists of our choices without being subjected later to accept them
as external impositions; to propose, therefore, agreements without having
to accept passively rules and conditions imposed by others».
«Now, in total serenity and conscience, the board of directors has perceived those clouds that we had mentioned before and that have invested
many small, and some not so small, credit institutions; such clouds are still far enough from our horizon, our climate is certainly still mild and
sunny; and, never the less, to speak explicitly, we can’t ignore the treats of the sudden change in the competitive environment of the Banks”.
"The necessity to face up to greater competition, not only in Bank transactions, that already brings about a reduction of future profitability, together with the increasing cost of innovating processes
and equipment necessary to generate new financial services, have convinced us that, among the possible solutions, the most reasonable was the search
of the Bank, avv. Nunzio Meli, receives the Premium XXIV Casali - 1987
for the economy from the hands of the then Vice President of the
Sicilian Region hon. Salvatore Leanza.
The Head Office and the last logo of the
Bank: it recalled the Bronte's economy based on agriculture
and, above all on the Pistachio.
The agreement, through organizational, commercial and professional strengthening, puts, therefore, as a primary objective, the
creation of the bases from which to continue the development so far realized, consolidating further the positioning market of our institute.»
Are transferred elsewhere the control and the decisional process of the
Company, Bronte has been completely cut out, even the general management
few years later (2001) has been transferred to Catania.
The project of aggregation with its strong economic logic
and the market requirements, uprooted the big tree planted in Bronte by
father Ciraldo in 1912, cancelling an institution more social than economic,
and all that had been achieved, throughout a century, with tenacity and
Bronte’s economy and the town itself lost one of its institution, one of
the feathers in its cap, a point of strength that, for almost a century,
had sustained the artisans, the farmers and the poor workers, all the
modest economy of the territory, adopting and encouraging economic
initiatives but also charitable and highly social ones ( see the
remarkable contribute given for the Hospital construction in the years ’20
The glorious “Cassa Agraria di Mutuo” (Mutual agrarian Bank)
nearly certainly shall not exist any
longer within the 2002; During the year the Bank has lost all
its real estate properties (ten buildings located in Bronte, Maletto, Adrano and Maniace) conferred to a company of the Lodi group: In April the
same group leader Bank, trying to get total control, has launched a public
offer of exchange for the acquisition of all the shares of the Popular
Bank of Bronte of which already controls the 51,11 % of the capital.