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Banking in Belgium - Statistics & Facts

An imporant trait of banks in Belgium is how international they are. Of the 87 banks established in Belgium at the end of 2018, 84 percent had foreign ownership, whereas roughly 16 percent had Belgian majority ownership. This comes back in the country's leading banks BNP Paribas Fortis, KBC, Belfius and ING Belgium. The institutions with the most bank branches were mostly foreign. BNP Paribas Fortis, the Belgian daughter of the France-based BNP Paribas, had over 700 bank branches in the country in 2019, whereas ING Belgium (a company with roots in the Netherlands) had around 640. At the end of 2018, there were roughly 5,000 bank branches in the country. This includes branches held by independent bank agents, as many banking offices in Belgium are managed by entrepreneurs who are not directly on the payroll of the bank itself. Banking in Belgium is also characterized by how many different players there are on the market, some of which offer services in different market segments such as retail banking, payment services, corporate finance and asset management.

Retail banking in Belgium combines elements of private banking and asset management, with banks offering different investment instruments and services for household deposits. Belgian households held over 1,300 billion euros worth of financial assets at the end of 2018, with most of these assets being in currency and deposits. Loans from banks to households amounted to roughly 230 billion euros in 2019. That same year, most private banking assets in Belgium could be found at the four biggest consumer banks: BNP Paribas Fortis, KBC, ING Belgium and Belfius. This is probably due to the relatively low bar set for clients, as investable assets of 250,000 euros or more were enough to participate.

Belgian banking plays an important part in the country's economy and the financing of companies. Criteria for corporate banking eased in recent years, as banks made it easier for companies to take a loan. These criteria were tightened again in 2018, as credit demand from companies grew, reaching their highest level in 2017. Companies wanted to make use of the favourable interest rates for non-financial companies, a consequence of the monetary policy of the European Central Bank (ECB). In addition, most bank loans are granted to SMEs and are relatively small in their size. In 2019, for example, more than half of all Belgian respondents to a Europe-scale company financing survey answered that their last bank loan was less than 250,000 euros.

When it comes to payment services, Belgian banks provide the skeleton of the country's payment system. In 2018, there were roughly 7,700 cash dispensers (or ATMs with a cash withdrawal function) in the country, the lowest number since 2007. On the other hand, the use of bank cards as a payment method increased, reaching approximately 2.1 billion transactions in 2018. This development is likely caused by a domestic payment scheme called Bancontact (until 2016 known as Mister Cash). Bancontact uses debit cards from all the country's banks (including the big banks) to let consumers pay for their goods in a brick-and-mortar store or online. Because of this structure, the payment card scheme (and therefore Belgium's bank cards) was a more popular payment method than cards issued by Visa, Mastercard, Maestro or V-Pay.

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Banking in Belgium

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Stats and figures on BNP Paribas Fortis

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