Digital Finance Summit - Speech Karel Baert

Blijf up to date met de laatste maatregelen vanuit de financiële sector

CEO Karel Baert sprak op de 7e editie van the DFS 2022 van Fintech Belgium. Het thema? Bouncing Back. Febelfins CEO was duidelijk: “Let this be a warm invitation for a strengthened cooperation between banks, fintech, different sectors and companies and especially with the government to tackle the challenges ahead together”. Ontdek de volledige speech hier.


Dear All,

It is a real pleasure to be with you today and to address the cream of the crop of Fintech in Belgium. Febelfin is more than happy to reconfirm its support to this important industry in Belgium, working closely together with our members, to assist them in their daily activities.

This 7th edition of the Digital Finance Summit is about Bouncing back. One sector that knows how to bounce back is the financial industry. There is no doubt about that: I can give you a multitude of reasons why we can no longer compare the banks of today with the banks of 14 years ago. I could talk about the fact that the banks have become more solid, better capitalized, have better liquidity, an hugely sophisticated regulatory framework, much better supervision, but what I think makes the biggest difference is the fact that the banks have taken on more and more social roles.

One of those roles is financing the economy. That’s what banks do since centuries. Belgian banks have certainly become more resilient – one of the topics later today. Resilience, in our view, is adapting to adversity. It is the ability to adapt to difficult situations. Almost by definition, it has to do with major and significant change. As the economic and technological environment changes at a rapid pace, the financial sector must demonstrate on a daily basis that it can handle these changes, that it is resilient. And since the sector is closely intertwined with the economic fibre, it must also provide this resilience to other economic actors. During the recent COVID crisis, the industry has taken its responsibility by very quickly introducing emergency solutions, mainly based on credit moratoria and the introduction of government guarantees. During that period, the banks granted moratoria on their own initiative to individuals for EUR 13 billion and to companies for EUR 24 billion. In a recent report, the NBB highlighted the important role the sector played during the Covid crisis, among other measures such as temporary unemployment. Even in difficult times, we listen to our customers and guide them so that we can get through times of crisis together. So banks are not part of the problem , but part of the solution. And we continue to play our social role in the current energy crisis. The financial sector is committed to help individuals to the best of its ability and guide them through the energy crisis, by enabling a payment deferral on their mortgages. Banks are also ready to help companies and look for the best solution, tailored to each company’s specific situation.

Another social role is to take our customers by the hand in their digital transformation – a topic closely linked to two other items on today’s agenda : Open data & Technology. Along with Fintech, the banking sector has been one of the pioneers in digital for years. First in the back office and today also in the front office. Everyday banking services lend themselves particularly well to digitisation, especially since the arrival of the smartphone. However, a major challenge remains. We have to ensure that the technological project is fully inclusive. In particular, the weakest in society should not be excluded. Some studies suggest that up to 40% of the population is not or almost not connected or has not mastered the basics of digital tools. As a result, this very quickly becomes a blocking point for daily operations, both with private and public counterparts: banking operations of course, but also job and education searches, the corona pass, the tax declaration, appointments to be made, etc..

Another major challenge is cyber security risk. Our members invest heavily in new technologies and security every day. The legal framework, which is fundamental to privacy protection, must however be sufficiently open to respond to tomorrow’s realities and needs. For the banking sector, where privacy protection has always been central, it is about striking the right balance between data protection and fighting fraud and protecting our consumers.

To achieve and ensure this right balance, all parties, public and private, must join forces.

Finally, it is clear that the financial sector will also play a central role in addressing ESG challenges, the final topic of today. Febelfin is one of the leaders in this field in Europe with its 'Towards Sustainability'label. This standard is indeed a clear and credible frame of reference for investors seeking assurance in the field of ESG (Environmental - Social - Governance). This applies not only to the E, but also to the S and G. From the outset, the standard was a precursor to the Green Deal and European taxonomy. This label has become a leading reference in Europe, without falling into the traps of 'greenwashing' .

We are at a turning point, where transitions will (have to) be realized and models will (have to) be adapted. Above all, I want to send a positive message about the many opportunities that exist to mobilize and act. Let this be a warm invitation for a strengthened cooperation between banks, fintech, different sectors and companies and especially with the government to tackle the challenges ahead together.

I wish you all a fruitful Digital Finance Summit.

Karel Baert, CEO Febelfin