“Our purpose – to facilitate Belgian exports – is now more relevant than ever”
Credit insurer Credendo is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The company was founded in 1921 by the Belgian Government to support Belgian international trade by granting guarantees and insurance. It has since developed into an international group with a presence in 15 European countries. Dirk Terweduwe, CEO, said, “Our main purpose is still to facilitate Belgian exports, for both large and small companies. Our roots are still set firmly in Belgium and we are confident about the future because there are still many opportunities for growth. More specifically, we are aiming at the financing and insurance of SMEs’ export projects.”
In 1921, the Belgian Government decided to create an agency to support exporting firms by granting insurance and guarantees. In 1939, the Office national du Ducroire (ONDD) became an autonomous public financial institution. In addition to its public aim – to provide insurance with a state guarantee – the company began to develop its private commercial insurance activities in 2004, taking the first step towards international expansion, which has now resulted in it having a presence in 15 countries. In 2017, the group adopted the name Credendo. The Belgian state remains its sole shareholder.
Public aim: Credendo – Export Credit Agency
Companies that export in particular to distant destinations outside Europe are faced with the risk of non-payment or the risk of breach of contract. CEO Dirk Terweduwe explained, “Our main purpose, as a government agency, is to cover such risks with insurance products. This gives exporting firms the necessary confidence and the chance to explore new international markets. We operate both alone and as part of a consortium with banks, other financial partners or insurers.”
Our public aim of supporting the Belgian economy comprises four activities:
- Credit insurance for exporting firms
- Financial guarantees for banks that finance exporters
- Financing of export transactions up to EUR 8 million, over a maximum period of five years
- Insurance for overseas investments
Financing of the smallest export transactions is increasing. Nabil Jijakli, Group Deputy CEO, said, “Over 10 years, a budget of EUR 300 million is available for financing this type of project. Often, companies that want to sell in emerging economies must not only have the best product, but must also be able to offer tailor-made financing. We help them gain this type of project.”
Belgian companies that want to invest in an overseas subsidiary can also turn to Credendo for insurance to cover their investments. Nabil Jijakli said, “This insurance was completely revamped three years ago, following market research and a survey completed by our clients. We will cover political risks associated with violence, embargoes, expropriation, business interruption, inconvertibility and currency transfer restriction, etc. Our new policy has enjoyed renewed success since this revamp, which meets companies’ specific needs.”
Commercial insurance: Credendo Group
Credendo has been offering a range of commercial insurance solutions since 2004. With a presence in 15 countries, Credendo is now the fourth-largest credit insurance group on the European market. Dirk Terweduwe explained, “This European dimension is essential for us to perform our activities successfully and profitably. We have gained extensive expert knowledge of distant markets. We are the partner of choice for firms, financial institutions and insurance companies throughout the world.”
Our commercial insurance comprises:
- Comprehensive insurance policies for short-term trade credit that companies agree between them for periods of 30 to 90 days, or even 180 days
- Guarantees that companies must provide within the framework of tenders or contracts and statutory sureties
- Specific insurance, such as excess of loss (cover against catastrophic damage) or top-up insurance (additional capacity for comprehensive insurance policies)
- Reinsurance within the scope of large projects or other insurers’ export portfolios
Credendo: Facts and figures
Credendo has 550 employees: 326 in Belgium, of whom there are 200 at the group’s parent company in Brussels, and 224 at overseas subsidiaries.
Every year the parent company Credendo – Export Credit Agency handles 2000 files (new policies as well as adjustments to existing contracts).
Credendo covers risks associated with international trade in the amount of EUR 85 billion.
In 2020, premiums received amounted to almost EUR 315 million, half of which was for Belgian transactions.
Credendo is continuing to expand its network in Europe. Nabil Jijakli noted, “In 2020, we opened an office in Ireland, a country which is experiencing economic growth and is a strategic base for a number of international companies which themselves need insurance and guarantees.” He continued, “As regards our London office, which is also historically our first overseas office, we have received authorisation to continue to operate as an overseas insurance provider in the United Kingdom. It is a significant market. We will also be opening a second office in the Netherlands in 2021.”
Consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021
2021 will be a difficult year for Belgian exporters. It has emerged, from a survey conducted late last year, that 4 in 5 companies have seen a decrease in their export turnover. 60% of companies said that the impact of the pandemic will continue to be felt in 2021, while 4 in 10 do not expect the volume of their exports to increase over the next three years.
Dirk Terweduwe explained, “The World Trade Organization expects international trade to recover this year, but it will still be some time before we return to the level we were experiencing before the crisis. In addition, the impact on the real economy will only be felt fully when the authorities throughout the world begin to withdraw their support measures. A lot will depend on when and how they do so. What is more, Brexit, trade wars and protectionism are continuing to cast a shadow over expectations.”
With a view to supporting Belgian companies, Credendo has set up a programme in which it is acting, on behalf of the Belgian state, as a reinsurer for private credit insurers. By doing so, it allows such insurers to maintain existing credit limits, and therefore to continue to cover business-to-business credit. Dirk Terweduwe said, “This programme is part of the Belgian federal state’s economy support measures. The European Commission has just agreed to extend reinsurance measures until 30 June 2021.”
Outlook for world trade
Despite the crisis, Credendo believes that in the years to come, Europe will have a greater role to play in world trade. Joe Biden’s assumption of the US presidency will help to restore transatlantic relations. The United States’ return to the Paris climate agreement is music to the ears of the European Union, as the von der Leyen Commission has made the Green Deal and sustainable recovery an absolute priority.
Nabil Jijakli explained, “Europe is returning to the foreground. There are opportunities for companies developing sustainable solutions and innovative technologies that will help to achieve climate goals.”
However, Credendo is not expecting an immediate turnaround in US foreign policy. “Geopolitical tensions with China, which are actually a battle for international trade leadership, will perhaps ease, but they will certainly not disappear. Relations with Russia can also be seen to be cooling again. The new president will move human rights back to the heart of his politics, which could influence relations with several Arab states, for example.”
Group Deputy CEO
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