A Belgium correspondent for the newswire AFX News Ltd, Frances

KBC Lease and Lease KBC Group have a growing, Europe-wide
relationship with SMEs through its range of companies that provide
general leasing – both finance and operating – full service car
leasing, and vendor finance in western and central Europe.
Altogether the group has just over 1,600 employees, 23 per cent of
whom work in a sales role.

Leasing Life spoke to CEO William Brondeel at the group’s
headquarters, which are strategically situated next to Brussels
airport to maintain contact between the 15 European countries where
KBC Lease is active, including Romania, where it recently acquired
Romstal leasing, and the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and

“We consider ourselves as an SME in most countries – what we’re
trying to do is have the entrepreneurial spirit of an SME,” says
Brondeel, which has led the group to offer multiple kinds of
leasing, with automotive, machinery and equipment leasing in
particular aimed at SMEs.

Some 80 per cent of its production volume comes from SMEs and
distribution is organized through a number of channels: direct,
through bank branches (in Belgium 90 per cent of business is
sourced this way), dealers, and vendors, including a pan-European
vendor finance service which focuses mainly on IT leasing.

“Leasing is a good break-in product – it’s more stand-alone so
you can go to the client with finance lease or full-service car
lease,” Brondeel says, noting that increasing numbers of SMEs are
using company cars within the framework of employee reward
programmes. SMEs are also increasingly profitable: “What we are
seeing is that the average ticket size is growing because the
investments are increasing; the production line of 2008 costs a lot
more than the same five years ago,” Brondeel adds.

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The CEE market

In order to reach SME businesses in central and eastern Europe
KBC Lease has also a strong cooperation with local car dealers via
an automotive leasing product which enables one-stop shopping for
SMEs. “The car dealer is offering the whole package – and for
leasing and insurance they’re coming to us,” says Brondeel,

Marketing approaches vary from country to country, but are
consistently focused on building a personal relationship, often via
a bank branch manager. “You won’t see much advertising because
everyone knows KBC or the local KBC bank entity [CSOB Bank in the
Czech Republic and Slovakia, K&H Bank in Hungary and Kredyt
Bank in Poland] – we have a rather personal approach,” Brondeel
says. The group uses the web “more as added value for existing
clients” rather than a marketing tool. KBC Lease group is also in
the process of developing a new strategy for Russia, to support the
leasing activities of Absolut Bank, acquired by its parent company
in April of this year.


Sector-wise, KBC Lease says it is selective but highlights that
“in sectors that are not going well, you can have good companies”.
In line with KBC group: “We are rather conservative in our
acceptance, that’s true,” says Brondeel, but this approach has
allegedly seen KBC weather the recent turmoil in financial markets
better than many peers. 


In terms of risk, “you have to be very careful with start-ups”,
Brondeel says, and adds that for family businesses, continuity and
succession plans can be potential headaches. Overall, he adds,
“professionalism of SMEs is improving”. Risk is also self-selecting
in terms of asset leasing. He notes: “When you’re installing a new
production line, buying new trucks – that’s because you’re
expanding your business, it’s growing.”

KBC Lease’s Europe-wide approach streamlines leasing business
for the whole group, with Brondeel optimistic about building new
relationships with SMEs both in the rapidly expanding central and
eastern European market, and Belgium, where he says “there is still
growth potential”.

With the continuing growth of SMEs and KBC Lease’s European
strategy, his assertion that the group will “considerably improve
our bottom line this year” looks likely to prove true.


Average ticket size
 Western Europe:
 General leasing in Belgium: €68,000
 European vendor finance: €390,000
 Central Europe:
 General leasing: €32,000

 Ranking/market share 2006
  Belgium:general leasing; 2nd / 20%
  full service car leasing: 2nd / 12%
  Romania: 10th / 3.5%
  Czech Republic: 1st / 16%
  Slovakia: 2nd / 17%
  Hungary: 6th / 7%

Ratio sales versus non-sales staff:
 Sales: 23%
 Non-sales: 77%

SME definition

Two criteria are determinative: Turnover (eg less
than €10m in Belgium) and complexity (of activity,
share ownership, and financial needs)