1. Introduction

As he walks out of the Arrival Terminal of Fortaleza’s International Airport, Joaquim de Melo, founder of Banco Palmas, is glad to see the face of his trusted right-hand man, Asier Ansonera, who came to pick him up.  Joaquim was in Asia where he was invited as a keynote speaker at a seminar on community banks as a tool for financial inclusion and local development in developing countries.  As they start their car ride to Conjunto Palmeiras, where Banco Palmas is headquartered, Joaquim says to Asier, “It has been 28 years since I first arrived in Conjunto Palmeiras and 14 years since Banco Palmas was created.  Our community bank is unique in that it is the first of its kind and it is a model which several countries and regions wish to emulate.  It is our responsibility to, not only help in this process, but to also anticipate the challenges which may come after the model has served its first true purpose – that is to bring local development to those who are financially excluded.  I feel that it is time to reconsider some of the fundamental premises upon which Banco Palmas was built, at least in Conjunto Palmeiras, since the bank’s true purpose in our beloved community has been fulfilled”. Seeing that Joaquim looked tired from his long flight, Asier decided to let him rest during the drive, as they both silently reflect on the history of Banco Palmas’s emergence and its recent expansion.

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