Hang on to those bottles of wine and that prosciutto - you may soon be able to use them as collateral in Italian banks! From The Guardian:
The Italian bank Credito Emiliano has long stored hundreds of thousands of parmesan wheels*, worth about ¤300 each, in warehouses as collateral while they age.
Since the bank can sell the cheese if creditors default, it can afford to offer low interest rates to an industry which is suffering from recession and supermarket discounting.
Legs of cured ham, or prosciutto crudo, weighing about 10kg, can sell for hundreds of euros after months of curing in controlled conditions, while bottles of Brunello di Montalcino are regularly snapped up for the same amount.
"We may start off with accepting wine as collateral, but I would prefer the Italian banking association to launch an industry-wide scheme which involves a range of products," said Zonin. "This will help producers in times of crisis as well as when the economy picks up."
Talk about financial innovation! Imagine: a bank vault filled entirely with wine, cheese and ham. How lush! Similar - though not necessarily as 'high end' - initiatives are employed to provide banking to the poor across the developing world. USAID's Rural SPEED program in Uganda, for instance, enables farmers to use their crops as collateral for a loan worth 80% of its value, and sell it later when prices increase. Admittedly, a vault filled with maize isn't as exciting as one filled with wine, but both initiatives do serve to help farmers overcome both the cyclical nature of farm income as well as a general lack of access to credit. Hooray!... and yum!
*link not included in the original Guardian article, but added by Yours Truly...