Belgian co-op bank NewB faces closure after missing regulator’s target

The bank, launched in 2019, failed to meet a €40m capital requirement set by the National Bank of Belgium

Belgian co-op bank NewB is facing closure after it failed to meet capital requirements imposed by the National Bank of Belgium.

The regulator gave NewB until 30 September to meet a €40m capital requirement to demonstrate its viability, but it was unable to meet the deadline.

In response to the situation, the bank, founded in 2019, launched a petition on 22 September calling for an ethical and sustainable bank, which it hopes will reaffirm public support for its project. The campaign attracted signatures from 37,060 citizens and 110 organisations.

NewB has also launched two online forums, in French and Dutch, which brought together over 700 people to discuss its activities and plans.

“We have greatly exceeded our initial target of 25,000 signatures,” said CEO Thierry Smets. “The success of this citizen appeal for an ethical and sustainable bank once again demonstrates the extent of the popular support enjoyed by NewB.

“In a context of energy and social crisis, society as a whole needs new banking tools to finance the ecological transition and the sustainable and local economy. Two years after obtaining our banking license, the BNB requires a fundraising of €40m euros to continue the development of our activities in the next four years and in particular the marketing of financial products for professionals. This is a strong signal that the 37,060 signatories are sending to institutional investors a few days before the deadline set by regulators.”

NewB obtained its banking licence in January 2020. Since then, it has positioned itself as an ethical co-operative and sustainable provider. It offers accounts, payment cards, insurance, investment products and green credits, boasting a total of 20,000 clients with 180 million euros in deposits. It has so far invested €50m via SICAV NewB Invest, an investment society with variable capital, which meets the European standards in sustainability. It has so far granted loans for a total outstanding amount of €7.3m, which have directly benefited projects with high social or environmental added value.

The bank had to raise €30m to obtain a European banking license prior to 2020, and raised the funds from a range of stakeholders, including French mutual insurer Monceau, which provided a €10m investment. The mutual said it would not be investing this time around.

Despite being able to mobilise public support for the project, the bank’s future remains uncertain.