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An interesting international bank history ( below ):

Belgium's second ( 2nd ) largest commercial bank, BANK BRUSSELS LAMBERT ( BBL ) was created in 1975 by the merger of BANQUE DE BRUXELLES ( BB ) and BANQUE LAMBERT (BL ). Separately, each bank had survived more than 100-years of Belgium's often chaotic and war-torn history, however now together they face the more orderly but equally challenging unification of the European market and intensified competition it will bring.

An international orientation is nothing new for Belgian banks, however; situated at the economic crossroads of Europe, Belgium has of necessity always depended on foreign trade, for that reason developing a group of unusually cosmopolitan banks and bankers.

Neither BANQUE DE BRUXELLES ( BB ) and BANQUE LAMBERT (BL ), for example, was founded by Belgian natives, and throughout their history both were actively involved in the often-byzantine windings of international monetary exchange. From the funding of the rubber trade in Belgian Congo to the day when all of Europe uses one currency, BANK BRUSSELS LAMBERT ( BBL ) will have maintained a consistently internationalist approach to its task of providing both the Belgian government and private industry with a reliable source of capital.

The precursor to BANQUE LAMBERT was founded in Brussels shortly after Belgium won independence in 1831. At that time, the enterprising Rothschild Family opened its first ( 1st ) Belgian office, adding, within a few years, a second ( 2nd ) bank in Antwerp under the direction of Samuel Lambert, a Frenchman born in Lyon in 1811.

When the head of the main Rothschild branch in Brussels died, Lambert was named as the Rothschild manager for all of Belgium.

Samuel Lambert was succeeded by his son Léon Lambert, who moved the bank offices to the elegant former residence of the Marquis d'Ennetiéres in 1883 and solidified his ties to the Rothschilds by marrying a woman from the French side of that family.

Léon furthered his aristocratic aspirations by working closely with the King of Belgium, Léopold II, in financing Kingdom ventures into what became the Belgian Congo. For his help in this colonial experiment, Lambert was made a Baron, a title inherited by his son Henri when the latter assumed command of the bank after World War I.

Baron Henri Lambert took advantage of the booming economy of the mid-1920s to split away from the Rothschilds and form his own company, BANQUE LAMBERT ( BL ), where his first customers were friends of the family, and the bank remained a selective and largely aristocratic institution during its first decades.

When the Nazi Germany occupied Belgium, the Lamberts were forced to flee to England and the United States, and it was not until 1949 that a second ( 2nd ) Léon Lambert, Henri's son, took control of the bank which bore his name.

With the 1953 acquisition of la Banque de Reports et de Depots, BANQUE LAMBERT ( BL ) entered a phase of more aggressive expansion, especially into foreign trade and stock exchange funds. In 1972, a young associate manager at BANQUE LAMBERT ( BL ) named Jacques Thierry steered the company to a merger with BRUFINA, the large industrial investment holding company formerly a part of BANQUE DE BRUXELLES ( BB ). Thus introduced, the two ( 2 ) banks quickly realized that they themselves could benefit from a merger, and in 1975 BANK BRUSSELS LAMBERT ( BBL ) was formed, with Jacques Thierry as President. Now 14-years later, Jacques Thierry remains the combined banks' Chairman of the Board of Directors.

BANQUE LAMBERT new partner had been in business since 1871. In that year, a young man named Jacques Errera-Oppenheim ( from Venice, Italy ) took advantage of the Belgium central location and relatively open economy by founding a large new bank in Brussels. With a group of German and Dutch financiers, Jacques Errera-Oppenheim created BANQUE DE BRUXELLES ( BB ), capitalized with the unusually large sum of BFr 50,000,000 million.

BANQUE DE BRUXELLES ( BB ) sold government bonds and made loans to both private business and the government, but after a few profitable years it was caught in the slump of 1875 - 1876 and rapidly lost confidence of its largely German investors.

BANQUE DE BRUXELLES ( BB ) was forced to liquidate and reform itself as a smaller entity with the same name, after which it proceeded to grow quickly.

BANQUE DE BRUXELLES ( BB ) was a "mixed" bank, active as both a depository for business and individual savings and an equity investor in the industrial arena, and since a large percentage of Belgian assets remained in land, banks had to scramble for relatively small amounts of capital in circulating form.

After weathering the worldwide recession of 1890 - 1893, BANQUE DE BRUXELLES ( BB ) accelerated its investments in heavy industry, taking significant positions in the steel, coal, transportation, and electric power industries.

BANQUE DE BRUXELLES ( BB ) total assets grew at a tremendous pace during the decades leading up to World War I - from BFr 39,000,000 million in 1877 to BFr 628,000,000 million just before the war.

Many BANQUE DE BRUXELLES ( BB ) assets were tied up in foreign and colonial investments, since the bank took an active role in the imperial ambitions of Belgium.

World War I required BANQUE DE BRUXELLES ( BB ) to greatly increase its involvement in the public sector, as it joined other Belgian banks in trying to maintain payment of war indemnities and floating of interprovincial loans.

In a remarkable nature demonstrating modern international capital, in 1916 BANQUE DE BRUXELLES ( BB ) took over the BANQUE INTERNATIONALE DE BRUXELLES, owned by Germany that then occupied Belgium.

BANQUE DE BRUXELLES ( BB ) also assisted in the formation of the new BANQUE DE LOUVAIN, and in general, came through the war in excellent financial condition with its assets nearly doubling to BFr 1,200,000 billion.

In 1919, Maurice Despret became the new Chairman of BANQUE DE BRUXELLES ( BB ), bringing an ambitious plan for expansion by first creating a widespread network of retail branches throughout Belgium and in the Congo, gradually bringing them under centralized administration of five ( 5 ) geographical groups.

BANQUE DE BRUXELLES Chairman Maurice Despret pursued further investments in heavy industry, setting up six ( 6 ) new corporations that were later collected into two ( 2 ) holding companies, ELECTROBEL and COMPAGNIE BELGE POUR L'INDUSTRIE.

BRUSSELS BANK Chairman Despret also tried to improve overseas bank connections by trying to organize bank holdings in the Congo and seeking new business in the United States of America as well as Europe

During 1920s excellent business climate, these steps appeared to become extremely successful with BANQUE DE BRUXELLES total assets and profits rising rapidly, despite a number of setbacks, however at the close of the decade BANQUE DE BRUXELLES assets appeared to have grown nearly ten ( 10 ) times more than what they had been at the conclusion of the war, and with inspired confidence and over-speculation it came to an abrupt halt in October 1929.

The Belgian economy muddled through the first few years of the Great Depression with some success, but by 1934 the country was nearing a general panic, the van Zeeland Administration of the Belgium government took action, and since the public at-large felt banks were responsible for the Great Depression, van Zeeland and his Belgium Finance Minister Max - Leo Gérard set out to reform the antiquated Belgium banking system.

One part of their reform was aimed at mixed banks like BANQUE DE BRUXELLES.

To satisfy critics who suspected, then quite reasonably, that companies owned by banks received undue consideration from those controlling them, all banks were declared to restrict their banking business to either 'investment banking' or to 'deposits and loans'.

On December 28, 1934 the BANQUE DE BRUXELLES investment portfolio became a new corporation named BRUFINA, while its bank deposits and loan business was taken by a newly formed BANQUE DE BRUXELLES.

The companies are required by law to remain separate entitles, but through the years they continued close associations.

Though these reforms may have helped the banking industry, they did little to solve the basic weakness of the economy, which continued unchanged until World War II erupted in 1939.

As in World War I, Belgium spent years under foreign occupation, suffering the combined problems of massive deflation and German demands for equally massive war indemnity payments in World War II.

BANQUE DE BRUXELLES tried helping Belgium make these payments, but the period leading up to and following its liberation in 1944 was at best precarious.

 

BANQUE DE BRUXELLES was aided during the bleak struggle by the leadership of former Belgium Finance Minister Gérard who became BANQUE DE BRUXELLES chairman in 1939, remaining as such until 1952.

 

Gérard steered BANQUE DE BRUXELLES through difficulties of war and the equally challenging task of post-war monetary reform, when Belgium currency was completely revamped by enactments along with various other economic reforms.

 

Belgium banking evolved into quite a different business than before 1934 enacted reforms, and to a lesser degree immediately after the war, made banking into what a later BANQUE DE BRUXELLES Chairman called "presque public" - almost a part of the public sector economy.

 

Reacting to private sector chaos, during the Great Depression, the Belgium government decreed all banks would keep 65% of deposits available for loans to the Belgium government, which was busy establishing nationalized industrial combines, a program - though stringent by United States standards - was readily accepted by former Belgium Finance Minister Gérard who led as the chairman of BANQUE DE BRUXELLES whom both saw the Belgian economy accustom itself to the idea of close cooperation between government and industry.

 

As the repository of capital needed by both partners, the banks became part of a comprehensive planned economy rather than remaining independent agents. The mixed economy thus evolved where it seems to have worked well for all concerned, and not only the banks.

 

To hold up its end of the bargain with government and industry, BANQUE DE BRUXELLES was forced to raise its capital sharply, from BFr 200,000,000 million in 1945 to BFr 700,000,000 million in 1951 and to BFr 2,500,000,000 billion by 1964.

 

Profits appear to have increased, if not quite proportionately, at least in a continuous upward momentum.

Since 1952, BANQUE DE BRUXELLES Chairman Louis Camu oversaw post-war expansion after bank chairman Gérard's retirement then.

To take advantage of the greatly increased deposits made by a more prosperous public, BANQUE DE BRUXELLES Chairman Louis Camu designed a program of expansion in both Belgium national and international markets. Though prohibited by the reforms of 1934 from holding equity in other companies, BANQUE DE BRUXELLES furthered its expertise in the analysis and management of business affairs, seeking to become more useful to its private borrowers.

In 1953, BANQUE DE BRUXELLES introduced its first certified deposits, part of an effort to win a greater share of retail banking business across Belgium.

BANQUE DE BRUXELLES has been in the vanguard of the electronic revolution in banking, offering its first ( 1st ) automated teller machine ( ATM ) as early as 1969 and has continued upgrading its extensive computer facilities as a matter of course.

On the international side, BANQUE DE BRUXELLES participated in expanding monetary exchange and foreign investment of Belgium banks.

During the middle 1960s, BANQUE DE BRUXELLES entered into special agreements of cooperation with two ( 2 ) of the world's largest banks, BARCLAYS of London and CHASE Manhattan in New York, and in 1971 was asked to join the influential European banking syndicate, Société Financiére Européenne.

In a world growing ever more complex and interdependent, BANK OF BRUSSELS appears to have positioned itself to take advantage of coming changes.

Most important, of course, was the 1975 merger with BANQUE LAMBERT ( BL ).

By combining the assets and experience of two ( 2 ) of Belgium's leading banks, BANK BRUSSELS LAMBERT ( BBL ) strengthened chances of surviving gradual economic unification of Europe.

With trade barriers gone, Europe bankers will soon be pressed by rivals from across the continent as well as by their traditional local competitors, and the battle for deposit and loan dollars will no doubt be prolonged and bitter.

In anticipation of such a struggle, BANK BRUSSELS LAMBERT Chairman Thierry reorganized the bank according to five ( 5 ) market segments:

1. Households;

2. Private Investors;

3. Belgian Corporate Sector;

4. Multi-Nationals; and,

5. Institutional Investors.

In making this change, however, BANK BRUSSELS LAMBERT ( BBL ) Chairman Thierry emphasized the bank is preparing not merely for the 1992 opening of the European market, important as that will be, the chairman is primarily thinking of the date - as yet unknown, yet all but certain - when all of Europe will convert to a single currency - an event which, if nothing else, will be certain to keep BANQUE BRUXELLES LAMBERT ( BBL ) and the rest of the Europe banking community more than a little busy.

BANQUE BRUXELLES LAMBERT ( BBL ) Principal Subsidiaries:

Locabel-Fininvest (50%);

Banco di Roma (Belgio) (50%);

Lanson Industries Plant II (90.1%);

BBL Capital Management Corp.;

Ciabel (99.8%);

Sogerfin;

Banque Bruxelles Lambert (Switzerland);

Banque Louis-Dreyfus (France);

BBL Australia;

Williams de Broe Hill Ltd. (61.8%) (U.K.);

Finanziaria ICCRI - BBL (50%) (Italy);

Credit Europeen Luxembourg;

BBL Finance Ireland;

BBL CURRAN MULLENS LTD. (95%) (Australia).

BANK BRUSSELS LAMBERT ( BBL )

BANQUE BRUXELLES LAMBERT ( BBL )
24 Avenue Marnix
Brussels 1050
BELGIUM
TEL: (02) 517-21-11

Statistics: Public Company
Incorporated: 1975
Employees: 16,883
Assets: BFr 1.8 trillion / $48,400,000,000 billion (USD)
Stock Index: Brussels Antwerp Ghent Liege

 

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