In 1999, FBP acquired the Pioneer Polski Dom Maklerski S.A. brokerage house, renaming it Fortis Private Investments Polska.
FBP s Commercial Banking department was reorganised in 2001. By 2006 it boasted over 1,500 customers, around half of whom were Polish. At the time eight Business Centres had already been opened. The Silesia and Warsaw Business Centres played a prominent role in Fortis Banque s Commercial Banking Days in 2006.
In 2005, a new business line Private Banking was set up and in 2005 Fortis Pri- vate Investments opened its first representative office in Poland. FBP Vice-Chairman Bartosz Chytla described the goal as to grow faster than the market (25 - 35% per year) by targeting the most attractive segments such as Personal Banking customers and the best small firms, while also expanding our internal and external distribution channels. 102 Growth margins were important: the five largest banks in Poland held only a 49% total market share between them, compared with 84% in Belgium, and the number of bank branches per inhabitant in the country was one of the lowest in the European Union.
Nevertheless at FBP it was the Retail business that was proportionally the most impor- tant activity. The bank made a special effort in the field of lending to individual customers. Fortis Consumer Finance, set up in April 2005 as a distinct business inside Retail, covered all consumer credit activities, especially credit cards and consumer loans in Poland. Levels of personal savings in Poland were still low in the mid-2000s, while demand for loans was high. FBP benefited from being part of the Fortis group: headquarters provided FBP with liquidity, capital and knowhow, thus helping the Polish bank to meet the demand for loans. Over the ten previous years, consumer loans had grown by approximately 15% each year, and the number of credit card holders by close to 64% per year.
The bank embarked on various initiatives in order to become a key player in credit card issuance and lending. In June 2006, Fortis Banque Poland came out with a credit card which the holder could personalise. This was a first in the Polish market. During this period, the bank opened in Warsaw its first two Loan Shops (Fortis Twoj Kredyt), branches reserved for Consumer Finance customers. Located in pedestrian shopping precincts and shopping malls, these points of sale operated more like a shop than a bank branch but instead of selling food or household appliances, they offered customers financial services such as consumer loans, mortgages, bank cards and insurance. Vet- ting and approval was streamlined through highly standardised, automated authorisa- tion processes and the whole approach made loan application procedures simpler and faster.
After Poland joined the European Union in 2004, FBP s Retail Banking department also focused on making capital investment loans to SMEs. FBP ran a number of information
102. Fortis Tribune, n° 39, October 2006, p. 12.
1 CZERWCA 2006 R. DEPARTAMENT FORTIS CONSUMER FINANCE
URUCHAMIA KAMPANIĘ MA JĄCĄ NA CELU OSIĄGNIĘCIE WIODĄCEJ
POZYCJI NA RYNKU EMISJI KART KREDYTOWYCH. W TYM CELU
BANK OTWIERA CREDIT SHOP ODDZIAŁY BANKU OBSŁUGUJĄCE
KLIENTÓW CONSUMER FINANCE. LOS CLIJSTERS, DYREKTOR
GENERALNY RETAIL BANKING, INAUGURUJE PIERWSZY FORTIS TWÓJ
KREDYT W WARSZAWIE
ON 1ST JUNE 2006, THE FORTIS CONSUMER FINANCE DIVISION
LAUNCHED A CAMPAIGN DESIGNED TO POSITION FORTIS AS A KEY
PLAYER IN THE CREDIT CARD ISSUANCE MARKET, AS PART OF WHICH
THE BANK SET UP CREDIT SHOPS, SPECIAL BRANCHES
FOR CONSUMER FINANCE CUSTOMERS. LOS CLIJSTERS, CEO OF RETAIL
BANKING, OFFICIALLY OPENS THE FIRST FORTIS TWOJ KREDIT
196 T H E O R I G I N S A N D F O R M AT I O N O F B N P PA R I B A S B A N K P O L S K A