Dozens of rappers boast about how much cheese they’re racking up; Kanye even proclaimed once that he’ll take the “I’ve got a lot of cheese award.” But the real first-prize winner for most cheese goes to (wait for it) a tiny Italian bank.

Since 1953, Northern Italian bank Credito Emiliano has been accepting massive wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese as collateral for loans, and is now the focus on a new Harvard Business School study on the intersection of banking and cheese.

In what just might be the ultimate form of local banking, the practice (known as “credem”) calls for cheese producers to offset their fledgling cheese to the bank during the maturation process, “essentially replacing part of the operations for the cheese producers” and “gaining deep [cheese] operations expertise” for the banks.

This tit-for-tat relationship takes a huge chunk of the risk out of cheese making for small farmers, in an industry when even the slightly change in climate or warehouse conditions can lead to spoilage (bubbles, swelling) or a cheese that isn’t able to reach its thirty-year flavor pentacle.

“Credem accepts young cheese as collateral, valuing it at the current market price of mature cheese,” according to Forbes. “The…typical loan-to-value ratio is 70 to 80 percent, which cushions the bank against market price fluctuations and product degradation.”

In Italy, the cheese really does stand…a loan.

[via Forbes]