Includes special features of this country’s banking system and rules/laws that might impact U.S. business.
The Belgian banking system has long been known to be a sophisticated and liberal banking system.  Standardized customer account numbers for all financial intermediaries are widely used, and internet and phone banking are well developed.  There are no restrictions on the free movement of capital and regulatory requirements are minimal.  There is a particularly wide and flexible range of loan products offered to companies, with no discrimination as to the nationality of the investor.  There are also many options available when it comes to raising risk capital.  Thanks to an efficient branch network, there is a large number of Belgian and foreign banks servicing the country.  Due to the sheer volume of international business carried out in Belgium, more than half of all banking transactions are international financial transactions.  The majority of Belgian banks also have an extensive international network based on strategically located branches in the main financial markets around the world.  A number of the 106 banks located in Belgium feature prominently in the top 100 international banks.  The combined assets of the three main banks (Fortis, ING and KB Group) amount to $370 billion. 

All credit institutions (banks and savings banks) operate under the same legal framework and are monitored by the same supervisory authorities.  The Banking, Finance and Insurance Commission (BFAC) supervises the activities of financial institutions, including banks, investment funds, stock brokers, finance companies and holding companies.  As a result of the deregulation of the banking sector in 1993, credit institutions have been able to offer all financial services, as defined by European legislation.  The BFAC supervises the financial sector in close coordination with the National Bank of Belgium (Belgium’s central bank). 

Domestic and foreign banks in Belgium are represented by the Belgian Bankers’ Association (BBA).  Since June 2003, the BBA has been part of the recently created professional organization that represents the whole Belgian financial sector (banks, investment funds, leasing companies, stock brokers, asset managers and companies offering credit to the household sector), called Febelfin.

The four main Belgian banks are ING, Dexia Bank, BNP Paribas-Fortis and KBC.  A full range of financial services is offered, with special account facilities for non-Belgian nationals.  Banking services are also available from the Post Office.  Banking hours are normally 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The main bankcard used in Belgium is the Mister Cash-Bancontact debit card, issued along with a PIN number upon opening a bank account in Belgium.  In order to open an account, proof of identity, such as a passport, is required.  The Bancontact card can be used to withdraw cash at ATMs, and to pay for almost anything in Belgium, from a newspaper, parking meter, gasoline, or a loaf of bread from the bakery.  Credit options are also available on application.  All bank ATMs in Belgium accept the Bancontact card; some accept MasterCard, Visa and other credit and debit cards.  The major credit cards are generally accepted in stores, restaurants, and hotels.

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