Banking in the Benelux - Statistics & Facts

The banking sector in the Benelux region (named after the three countries Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) has several distinct characteristics. It has a defined international focus. According to data from 2019, more than half of the banks in all three countries were foreign. This includes foreign branches as well as foreign subsidiaries. Benelux banks also seem to be in good financial health. The CET1 ratio of banks in Luxembourg (a ratio that shows how much money a bank has in reserve when things go bad) was nearing 24 percent in 2018, well exceeding the minimum requirements of 4.5 percent. Despite their similarities, however, there are also significant differences between the three banking industries.

Nearly 51,000 people worked in Belgium banking sector, with the largest share working for banks like BNP Paribas Fortis, KBC, Belfius and ING Belgium. These four banks are the biggest in the country not only in terms of assets, but also in terms of bank branches: BNP Paribas Fortis alone had over 700 bank offices in 2019. This relatively high number of bank branches is characteristic of the banking industry in Belgium. To compare, ING operated roughly 231 bank offices in the Netherlands in 2019, whereas its Belgian counterpart had 640. Belgians' increasing use of online banking, however, lead to decreasing numbers of both employees and bank branches.

The banking industry in the Netherlands is much more concentrated than the sectors of the two other Benelux countries. In 2018, roughly 85 percent of all banking assets in the Netherlands were held by the five biggest Dutch banks, whereas this was 73 percent in Belgium and 26 percent in Luxembourg. This high concentration is due to the large retail banks such as ING, Rabobank and ABN AMRO offering multiple financial products, especially mortgages. The three banks are among the most important supplier of mortgage loans, a large market in the Netherlands due to government encouragement in the past. Also, there are two specialized banks which exclusively provide services for the Dutch government and other publicly owned organizations: BNG and NWB (or Nederlandse Waterschapsbank). In short, Dutch banks work on all kinds of areas. Due to this liberalized nature of the Netherlands' banking markets, common ratios like ROA (Return-on-Assets, an indicator of profitability) are not available on a national, sector-wide level, but only per individual bank.

Luxembourg's banking market is possibly even more international-minded than the markets in Belgium or the Netherlands. Unlike those two, the total number of bank employees grew in recent years, reaching their highest number in 2018. Staff count reached approximately 26,000 people that year, as banks in Luxembourg not only serve their home market but also the international market. Of the 129 banks found in the Grand Duchy at the end of 2019, only eight were of Luxembourgish origin, with all remaining banks coming from abroad. For example, Luxembourg was home to 14 Chinese banks. The country specializes in being an entry for the European market for many non-EU companies, but also provides other financial services. The Luxembourg private banking sector alone already held roughly 400 billion euros worth of assets under its management in 2018.

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Banking industry in the Benelux

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Online banking

Non-performing loans

Market competitiveness

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