How do you look back at these past couple of months?
After my first months as the CEO, I’m more than ever convinced of 3 things. One, we have a strong market position and unique characteristics that make us stand out from competitors. Two, we have strong foundations and are resilient to face the challenges we are confronted with. And three, we have a strong vision for the future, based on our business, people and shareholders.
Yet 2019 seems to be an eventful year for the group: a new CEO, but also issues with the regulator?
In recent months, we have indeed faced turbulent administrative headwinds. Like all Belgian financial institutions, we had to review certain procedures to bring us into compliance with the latest regulatory requirements, particularly those relating to the fight against money laundering. In this respect, we must document our relationship with clients accurately and ask them to provide us with additional documentation to complete their client file. And as long as the file wasn’t documented formally, we couldn’t process certain transactions.
How did your clients react?
We fully acknowledge that is cumbersome for our clients and we are sorry about that. We put all possible resources to help them in this administrative process. Actually, I am convinced that our group is now even stronger than before; implementing the regulatory requirements will further strengthen our relationship with our clients as we will know them even better. We must all be aware that regulation is the new normal, not only in the financial sector, but in all industries.
There were also rumors on a potential sale of Degroof Petercam.
Degroof Petercam is a profitable niche company with highly talented people and great performing products. We cannot avoid that other parties are interested in our company but this does not mean that Degroof Petercam is for sale. My mandate is to be fully focused on our clients and on our internal organization. We believe it has little added value to comment on rumors given this is not on the agenda.
How is the business doing?
Our businesses; plural, because we combine private banking, investment banking, institutional asset management and asset services. This year again, our private banking clients will benefit from solid performances which rank amongst the highest in the market. Also our private equity offering offered them profitable diversification possibilities.
DPAM has delivered an impressive track record over last four years and everything indicates that 2019 will be a top year. DPAM's assets grew with 20 % this year, demonstrating the increasing confidence of our clients.
Our teams in investment banking are advising on many important deals in Belgium and abroad and have won several awards this year. Asset Services is a business which is less visible to most of our clients, but it performs back office and administration services for investment managers, fund distributors and fund managers. To summarize, the value we create for our clients, creates value for our company.
You’re confident about the future, so how do you see this future?
As an organization, we continuously adapt to the world around us and just like any other company we face certain challenges: new ways of interacting with clients, an unseen situation of negative interest rates, changing rules and regulation … My confidence comes from a firm belief in our uniqueness and strengths, from a conviction that we create value for our clients and from knowing that our organization can manage change.
Our clients value us for our niche expertise, for the close relation they have with our experts, for our track record in sustainable and innovative solutions, our focus on the long term and our strong financial foundations. Our group is one of the strongest in Europe. Our core capital ratio amounts to ca 17%, which far exceeds regulatory requirements. Our liquidity is ample and the robustness of our balance sheet admired.
How do you see your mission as CEO?
My mission is to further develop our group, to strengthen our unique Belgian family-owned company and to reinforce it so we are ready for the next 150 years. And the best way to do that, is to ensure that our services are as close to the needs of our clients, our people equipped with state of the art tools, and our company well organized to make a durable mark for clients, staff and society at large.