Article

19.08.2020

How we help our corporate clients to expand abroad

BontexGeo is a manufacturer of geotextiles. In the European market there’s very little growth potential but there are lots of opportunities elsewhere in the world. Where exactly, though? And how can you explore those opportunities to a maximum? That’s where our Trade Development service comes in.

BontexGeo is an international manufacturer of geotextiles, with headquarters in the East Flanders town of Zele and production facilities in Belgium and Hungary. Geotextiles are materials which, among other uses, are laid underneath motorways and railway tracks in order to stabilise the construction and extend its lifetime.  The company is market leader in Europe and is looking to achieve further growth.  However, the market in Belgium and the wider Europe is now fairly flat and no extra growth would seem to be there for the picking.  So they’ll have to look elsewhere…but where exactly?

Relieving the client company of certain tasks

Our Trade Development department knows exactly how to go about things. As far as we know, no other bank in Belgium offers this type of service. The Trade Development network helps corporate clients to develop their business in new markets into which they would like to expand, relieving the client of the task of pursuing leads and contacts on the spot.

In some cases, at a client’s request, the Bank actually works through its worldwide network to seek out promising markets for the client. In such cases, our Trade Development experts take a close look at the client firm, examine its business model from top to bottom, make a worldwide search for relevant opportunities and then discuss those opportunities with the client, applying all their experience and expertise.

Under normal circumstances this service is of real benefit to the client. However, when a crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic makes it difficult – or even impossible – to travel abroad, it then becomes absolutely crucial.

“BontexGeo is a perfect example,” says BNP Paribas Fortis Trade Development Manager Rob Van Veen, explaining: “On 27 April, barely a week after the initial strategic Webex session with the client, Tom De Winter, our Relationship Manager for BontexGeo, brought me in on the discussions.  The company was having temporary problems with some aspects of its international search because of the lockdown, in addition to which there were potential extra opportunities in markets further afield.  It was of course obvious that if they were going to achieve expansion abroad we needed to go looking for major infrastructure projects, which meant that some new areas outside Europe soon came into consideration.”

Local partners are crucial

“Unfortunately it wasn’t feasible to travel, due to the coronavirus crisis, and in such a moment as that our way of doing things is of vital importance. We work with local ‘partners’ – external consultants who know the local culture, the economic situation and the industry there. They’re under contract to us and they’ll analyse the market and help our clients to find, for instance, distributors or agents. In this way we make it easier for the client to go in search of targeted growth,” Rob Van Veen tells us, adding: “BontexGeo was in fact pleasantly surprised that we were able to provide this service.”

“Moreover, our local partners regularly go and see the end-customer over there,” Rob points out. He knows from experience that “in some countries that’s essential if you want to make sure that the business runs smoothly. Those consultants also take care to ensure that our Belgian clients only do business with sound, reliable partners – which is a great relief to them.” With all of this, the Bank’s Trade Development department services are of enormous value to companies looking to expand abroad.

 

Oiling the machinery

BontexGeo is now working through the Bank’s consultant partners in two prospective markets in order to take proactive steps to prepare the ground there. All in all, this is a long process. “If you obtain your first order within 9 to 12 months that’s a success,” explains Rob. “In this particular case we got the news on 8 July that the first new contacts had been successful. That’s very positive.”

It’s positive for BontexGeo and for BNP Paribas as well. “The BNP Paribas Group’s worldwide network is of course extremely useful for growth-oriented corporate clients, and the reverse is equally true,”  Rob is quick to point out. “By assisting Belgian clients with their ventures abroad, the Trade Development department regularly wins over new clients and new business for other Group divisions in those countries. Very often we help to oil the machinery.”

Article

26.10.2022

Sustainable Future Forum: Belgium as a hub for green hydrogen and the role of the EU

Belgium has strong assets as an industrial and logistics hub for green hydrogen in Western Europe. Entrepreneurs, bankers and the European Union discuss the challenges and opportunities.

At the global BNP Paribas Sustainable Future Forum on 18 October 2022, held at the auditorium of BNP Paribas Fortis' new Brussels headquarters, 5 experts discussed the European Union's contribution to the full roll-out of green hydrogen. Belgium’s strategic role as an industrial hydrogen hub for Western Europe also emerged in the debate.

Hydrogen, a link in the decarbonisation of the economy

Green hydrogen is produced by electrolysis of water with renewable energy. The EU considers green hydrogen as a key lever to providing clean, affordable and safe energy in the transition to a lower CO2-emitting economy. Harnessing the potential of sustainable H2 is both promising and complex. Nevertheless, with the situation in Ukraine, high inflation and the energy crisis, we have a momentum we can use to accelerate that transition.

The role of the EU: co-regulating and co-financing

Europe supports the roll-out of green hydrogen mainly in two areas. First of all, the European Union is working on clear market and industry regulation. For example, sustainability quotas for transport and industry can boost the market. In addition, legal certainty is very important to attracting private investors to urgently build out many high-tech infrastructures.

The EU taking the lead with concrete actions and project financing. This does not detract from the fact that around 40% of private investment is required. These funds should be relatively easy to access, as they are actually small amounts compared to the current investments in conventional fuels. Companies such as Engie and DEME are already financing large projects and are prepared to do even more if a long-term perspective is available. Sufficient incentive is required so that demand also increases on the user side, too. Achieving all goals requires cooperation between all stakeholders, both inside and outside the Union.

Belgium's assets as a hub for sustainable molecules

In Europe, we remain dependent on countries that can produce sustainable hydrogen cheaply. It is therefore of strategic importance to diversify the supply of hydrogen and other sustainable molecules. Belgium has many assets for import and export, storage and processing of green hydrogen as a hub for Western Europe.

Belgium is centrally located in a stable region and has large ports serving the hinterland. In addition, our country already has a strong CO2 and H2 network and benefits from offshore capacity with its location in the North Sea.

Hydrogen infrastructure financing

For the financing of hydrogen, we can draw a strong parallel with the early years of offshore wind power. At that time, we also had a lot of questions, but today the framework for wind power is clear. Hydrogen will go through the same evolution. As soon as there is a level playing field, investments will follow. To this end, BNP Paribas Fortis can offer well-known financial products.

Speakers

The five speakers represent the European Commission, science, an H2 producer from the maritime sector, the energy industry and finance.

Carla Benauges
Hydrogen and Innovation Policy Officer at the EU Commission (DG CLIMA: Directorate-General for Climate Action)

Christa Sys
Professor at University of Antwerp & holder BNP Paribas Fortis Chair Transport, Logistics and Ports

Herbert Jost
General Manager Hydrogen at DEME (dredging, land reclamation, offshore energy)

Eric Gosseye
Solutions and Partnerships Manager at ENGIE

Hendrik Deboutte
Energy, Resources and Infrastructure at BNP Paribas Fortis

Article

16.09.2022

Mobility Solutions of the Future

Your employees’ mobility needs are not standing still, and legislation is also changing at lightning speed. As a company, it is therefore crucial to work today on the mobility of tomorrow.

A changing world

Today you drive to visit customers, tomorrow you work from home and on Friday you take the train and the shared scooter from the station to the office... Your employees’ mobility needs are not standing still and the demand for sustainable, integrated and flexible solutions is increasing.

Legislation and economic conditions are also changing at an unprecedented pace. As part of its initiative to make the automobile sector more sustainable, the government has set a number of ambitious targets, such as greenhouse gas-free company cars by 2026 and betting on smart mobility for commuting. For this reason, many companies are currently considering a transition from a car policy to a mobility policy, in which employees are also given access to other alternative means of transport. In practice, however, there is a lot of extra administration involved when your employees opt for combined mobility to get around. A forward-thinking digital mobility solution tailored to your company will give you a big head start.

Employees want to choose for themselves

Multimodal mobility is an important asset for attracting and retaining talent. Not everyone benefits from a company car alone as a means of transport. Your employees want to be able to choose how they travel to and from work. One day the car is the best option, the next day, the bike or public transport. By moving towards a flexible mobility policy, employees will be able to choose the mobility solutions that suit them best in the future, so that they can go to work in complete freedom and with a good feeling.

Reducing CO² emissions

We are facing a real challenge in the coming years. Mobility and logistics account for as much as 22% of CO2 emissions in our country. If we are to achieve the European target – to reduce emissions by 55% by 2030 – we need to work urgently on greening our mobility. Electrification of your fleet in combination with soft mobility is already a step in the right direction. The government is driving this transition to zero-emission mobility by discouraging fossil-fuelled vehicles from a tax perspective and rewarding electrification. Think about more than just purchasing or leasing electric vehicles.

Towards Smart, Integrated Mobility Solutions

Mobility cards that offer an all-in-one solution for all your employees’ professional travel are still relatively unknown, but work very well. They allow you to book and pay for all necessary means of transport, from leased cars, public transport and taxis to shared mobility of bicycles, scooters and cars. Employees can also use them to fill up their lease cars, charge them and pay for parking and car wash.

Mobility platforms and apps go one step further: they offer the ideal multimodal solution in real time, depending on needs and traffic conditions. For example, taking the car to the outskirts of Brussels and then switching to an electric scooter or, in nice weather, biking to the office. The user of the mobility app can also buy a ticket directly from the suitable mobility provider, with a mobility budget that the employer makes available via a linked mobility platform. Such a platform allows employers to customise their mobility policy to meet their specific needs. This way, all employee mobility solutions are managed on the same platform. Moreover, all this is directly linked to the payroll of the payroll service provider. Thanks to the platform, the actual situation is displayed at all times and wages are always calculated correctly, taking into account individual mobility plans and expenses.

Say goodbye to congestion and administrative hassle, and hello to sustainable mobility!

Do you want a mobility policy that responds to the ever-changing needs of your employees and is committed to sustainability? Our experts will be happy to help you.

Mobility solutions are offered by Arval Belgium SA/NV via BNP Paribas Fortis SA/NV, Montagne du Parc/Warandeberg 3, B-1000 Brussels, Brussels Register of Companies VAT BE0403.199.702.
The information provided here does not constitute an offer. An offer will be made only after your dossier has been accepted and shall always be subject to the general terms and conditions of Arval Belgium SA/NV.

Article

19.08.2022

No challenge is too big for Skyhaus

Every day, determined men and women are pushing back boundaries and helping to build a sustainable and digital economy. Like Matthias Feys, Chief Technology Officer of Skyhaus, who wants to use artificial intelligence to solve the most challenging issues.

Chief Technology Officer Matthias Feys has been an integral part of Skyhaus since CEO Nicolas Deruytter founded it in 2013. Machine learning, data analysis, artificial intelligence... in less than ten years, the Ghent tech specialist has grown from a six-person start-up into an international player with nearly a hundred employees in six countries.

High-level automation

“Specifically, we identify that certain very complex or repetitive tasks can be performed by machines. This makes them more efficient,” says Matthias Feys. “Think of scans in a hospital. Right now, these are often analysed by doctors, but you can also have scan analysis carried out automatically. The computer itself looks for anomalies at an early stage. Or take the production of pills: the quality must be carefully inspected. This can be done perfectly by a machine.”

Only the greatest challenges

Smart technologies are taking an increasingly prominent place in our society. And yet while there is more than enough work for the many technical start-ups, there is also a lot of competition. “We differentiate ourselves by focusing on the most challenging projects,” says Matthias. “We invest our time and resources on issues for which there is not yet a ready-made solution.”

Efficient knowledge sharing

Skyhaus has grown into an international company. Yet despite this, everyone keeps in close touch with each other. “We work with both multidisciplinary and expert teams. Successes and experiences are shared among them. In this way, knowledge, new developments and opportunities are easily exchanged across national borders.”

International partner

For financial management, Skyhaus works with BNP Paribas Fortis. “It’s nice to have a partner you can always turn to for advice and practical help,” says Matthias. “In the beginning, we mainly had standard questions, but as we grew and started operating abroad, our needs changed. We received appropriate advice and the bank introduced us to the local offices abroad. In time, we will be able to turn to the experts at Global Trade Solutions, who offer worldwide support in the area of cash flow.”

Entrepreneurial success stories

At BNP Paribas Fortis, we are proud to work with passionate and inspiring entrepreneurs such as Matthias Feys. Because building the entrepreneurship of tomorrow together, that too is Positive Banking.

Article

19.08.2022

“The energy transition is first and foremost an attitude”

Every day, determined men and women are pushing back boundaries and helping to build a sustainable and digital economy. Such as Léopold Coppieters en Arthur Dawans, founders of the Brussels scale-up Skysun, which is already saving 1,450 tonnes of CO2 per year by installing photovoltaic power plants in companies.

Imagine a photovoltaic power plant being installed free of charge on the roof of your company, and you receiving electricity at an attractive price. This is the concept that Léopold Coppieters and Arthur Dawans developed with Skysun out of their passion for climate protection. “We are not solar panel installers: we want to facilitate the energy transition in the long term,” explains Léopold Coppieters.

Sustainable commitment

Skysun’s business model is based on selling energy produced by solar panels that the company finances and installs itself. “We take care of the entire investment in order to be able to offer a win-win solution. The customer’s energy savings determine our profit.” The third winner in this story? Our planet. Skysun is reducing the ecological footprint of about 2,100 families while also securing their annual electricity consumption. “And in the next five years it will be fifteen times as many.”

But renewable energy should not be an excuse for overconsumption. Skysun is therefore committed to guiding companies towards greater sustainability. “The best energy saving is the energy that is not consumed,” emphasises the young Brussels entrepreneur. “We have installed some 21,000 panels since 2018, so our solution provides an answer to a real demand.”

Strategic financial partner

Skysun’s activities follow the rhythm of market fluctuations and regional regulations. But the financial plans for each new project also play a role. The scale-up takes on this challenge in close collaboration with a team of market specialists within BNP Paribas Fortis. “It’s a crucial partnership for us as a specialist in third-party investments. BNP Paribas Fortis finances eighty percent of our projects.”

Skysun’s first installation of 1000 solar panels dates back to 2018. Three years later, the company has installed no less than 1.2 hectares of solar panels on the roof of the Anderlecht slaughterhouses. It is the largest installation of photovoltaic solar panels in an urban environment in Europe, and guarantees electricity for 700 families. “We have opted for a sustainable approach here as well, with respect to the aesthetics of the listed building and a technique of ultra-renewable panels,” concludes Coppieters.

Entrepreneurial success stories

At BNP Paribas Fortis, we are particularly proud to support passionate and inspiring entrepreneurs like Léopold Coppieters and Arthur Dawans. Working together to forge new ways of doing business: another example of Positive Banking.

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