Bank Strategies in Euroland with Special Reference to the Benelux Area
In its first part, the present essay focuses on one main thesis. The transition to full EMU and the introduction of the euro will have a more effect on European banking than the previous Single Market¨Project (Europe 1992). They deal directly with money, the basic material of banking, and they pave the way to more aggressive bank strategies. In conjunction with other factors, they not only induce "accomodating" reactions, mainly through cost-cutting, but also "autonomous restructurings" : less intermediation, more market activities and, most of all, external growth through M(ergers) and A(cquisitions). This significantly changes the structure and the policies of European banking. Recently important and controversial M and A have occurred in the Benelux area. In the second part of the essay, these developments are analysed in the just described framework. After a global overview two case studies are presented : ABN-AMRO, n° 1 in the Netherlands; the Generale Bank, n° 1 in Belgium. The main conclusion is that the rationale behind the recent M and A is not mere size, but also accelerated rationalisation and penetration in foreign domestic markets, which was previously hampered by defensive and ultimately self-defeating strategies of strengthening the mere national domestic base. However, at the present stage, the importance of institutional resistance, even in small neighbouring countries, should not be under-estimated. Hence, cross-border restructurings in European banking will only increase gradually.
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