80 banks are registered with the National Bank of Belgium. Beyond the banks incorporated under Belgian law (28), branches of foreign banks are also active in Belgium, both from the European Economic Area (46) and from non-EEA countries (6). France, The Netherlands and Luxembourg stand for more than 80% of EEA banks, the latter being highly focused on private banking. Febelfin mentions 104 banks and financial institutions in Belgium, including financial actors which are group captives or are specialized banks in factoring, leasing, …
Corporate clients of banks are seldom aware of this large number of actors with which they can work in Belgium. They mostly choose amongst the 4/5 traditional players, this lack of knowledge being potentially an under-optimization of their financing or banking costs.
The number of Belgian banks seems huge, but if we put aside the personal and private banking and some specific-purpose banks, banks offering corporate services amount to 13 (the 4 traditional banks as well as AION Bank, VDK Bank, Beobank, Bank J. van Breda, …). The segmentation obviously stands in the type of client they are able and willing to serve. Large generalist banks serve clients of all sizes. Other players focus mainly on the smaller clients. Surprisingly very few banks. This segmentation implies the capacity to offer differentiated financing solutions to their clients (factoring, leasing, …). For small and medium-sized companies, the choice between a large bank and a smaller one depends on the service they require (proximity, sector focus, …) and the nature of their business, working with both types is often a good combination. For larger companies, the field of vision must clearly widen to foreign banks.
The initial focus of foreign banks’ branches has been on supporting foreign groups with the financing of their Belgian subsidiaries, or Belgian international groups with activity in their home country. More recently, some of the main actors in Europe decided to develop their offer towards the Belgian companies, capitalizing on their product capability and international network. These banks mainly address large corporates (> 1Bn in sales) with loan offers, with the aim of setting up long-term relationship (JP Morgan, Barclays, Santander, Cacib, Deutsche Bank, ABN Amro, HSBC, …). But some are open to smaller clients (Caisse d Epargne or Triodos), recognizing that the Belgian market does not include numerous large international groups. These banks are not present with all of the usual offer and often concentrate on loans and transactions, with specialised products such as project finance, leasing, factoring, …
How can Ernest Partners help you take advantage of this large offer?
This moving landscape is an opportunity for Belgian companies seeking to diversify their financing sources. While choosing to restructure an existing financing or building a strategic funding support for a business plan, one must now open the reflection to a wider range of banks.
With our expertise of the Belgian funding landscape, with our capacity to translate your strategy into a durable financing structure, Ernest Partners will gladly help you choose the best long term bank partners.