Belgium What's NewS Belgium - REDEPLOYING FOR THE FUTURE Supplement for What's NewS June 1996 A new commercial structure, a new corporate approach in treasury, a revised internal organization and a new general manager - all are descriptions which can be applied to Rabobank Belgium's development over the past year. What's NewS went visiting to find out exactly what has been happening. Rabobank Belgium is one of only three branches - the other are Luxembourg and Curagao Willy Van den Houdt - in the international network where Dutch is not a totally foreign language. But the similarity with their northern neighbours ends there. The market is different; the business culture is different; the mentality is different. 'The first thing you have to understand about the Belgian market is that it is hugely overbanked,' says Willy Van den Houdt, who is the new general manager as of January 1. 'It is also a highly sophisticated and competitive market so margins, even in treasury, are very slim. This means you have to come up with ideas that will really add value. I'm thinking of corporate finance here - tax- driven structures, focused treasury marketing. These are two distinct areas where we should penetrate. But you must also be very seléctive in your marketing. You must know everything there is to know about a potential cliënt before you even think about calling.' FORTUNE 500 In terms of food and agribusiness, Belgium is a relatively small market. 'However, that doesn't mean we don't have a lot of opportunities there,' Van den Houdt adds. Trade finance is another area where we see a lot of potential. Antwerp is the fourth largest port in the world, so there are openings for us there as well. And another very exciting area is the coordination centre market. Delivering added value corporate finance and treasury products to this niche will be a key priority in the future. Belgium may not be a significant country in terms of indigenous multinational corporations, but virtually all the Fortune 500 names have sizeable coordination centres in this country. Essentially, we're typically a subsidiary market. So the further development of our international networking, which should result in more cross selling is another key element here.' CREDIT QUALITY Given the specifics of the Belgian market, the bank has been engaged in a restructuring process over the last year which is designed to tackle its market more effectively. Another change has been on the credit side. Until April, Gilbert Reyns and his team reported to Tim Zumpolle. Now they are directly responsible to Van den Houdt. Gilbert Reyns 'There was a kind of conflict of interest,' Reyns says. 'Relationship managers tend to have an almost emotional involvement in their credit applications. So it is important for the analysts to be independent, to be able to monitor both income and the quality of the credit. In view of ROS requirements, quality is a top priority. And objective analysis can only enhance that.' FOCUSSED APPROACH The commercial restructuring has been far-reaching. 'I think Tim Zumpolle should explain that,' says Van den Houdt. Tim Zumpolle Wh en Zumpolle took over the commercial division last year, he found 'a good hard- working team, but our approach was rather opportunistic. I hate to use buzz words,' he grins, 'but we needed more focus. We looked carefully at the market and have defined three segments: food and agri, the middle market and the larger corporate market. 'Essentially, our response has been to form three dedicated, nationwide teams, thus abandoning our former regional approach. We think a middle market customers need a different approach. In DE RABOBANK IN BELGIË Een nieuwe commerciële structuur en een nieuwe klantbenadering en dat onder leiding van een nieuwe general manager Willy Van den Houdt. De markt is "overbanked" met ca. 130 banken. Hierdoor is de concurrentie groot en zijn de marges klein. Het belang van fiscaal gedreven constructies en andere creatieve oplossingen is groot. Voordat een potentiële klant benaderd kan worden, moeten alle beschikbare gegevens voorhanden zijn. Op het gebied van Food Agribusiness is België een relatief kleine markt, waar echter wel kansen liggen.Trade finance ziet goede mogelijkheden

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