By accepting our use of cookies, you allow us to improve your experience on our website, so that it is faster, more personalised and more secure. You can change the cookie settings in your browser at any time. Find out more about cookies.

Watch how Keytrade Bank will NOT be celebrating its anniversary.

After all, the daring prefer to go off the beaten track.

Our app turns paying invoices into child's play

Have you tried out our Keytrade Bank app's new features yet? Go ahead and simplify your finances. Download or update the app now, and please let us know what you think via the App Store or Google Play.

What's new?

What's new?

Paying invoices is faster than ever with our scan. Say goodbye to painstaking copying of codified information: your smartphone camera recognises the traditional transfer form data and registers it automatically. Even if the invoice has no transfer form, you can still use the camera for the separate fields.

Our app's trading section has been redesigned as well. At a glance, see more of your portfolio than ever before and buy and sell or set up alerts with just a swipe.

Ever needed to change or stop a scheduled payment at the last minute? Or wished you could set up, modify or cancel a standing order via your smartphone? The Keytrade Bank app can handle those too from now on.

Haven't tried our app yet? Quick, install it to have our bank with you wherever you go. You won't regret it.

close

Click here to download the app

Pierre Huylenbroeck

"The ten killers of the Brussels stock market"

Read more of this story

Twenty years ago, it was 1998. I was a financial journalist for the newspaper De Tijd in those days. Very busy times for me. It was a year of big mergers in the financial sector: Kredietbank, ABB, Cera Bank and Fidelitas merged into KBC, Generale Bank was absorbed by the Fortis insurance group, insurer Royale Belge was incorporated by Axa and Dexia acquired Artesia.

None of the financial big guns managed to escape a thorough change of identity that year. Even for Generale Maatschappij, which had been the symbol of Belgian finance for a century and a half, 1998 was its swan song, as it was acquired by French group Suez.

All these mergers continuously put the Brussels stock market in the spotlight. Investments were hip in those days, and both the government and the media contributed to their popularity. Dozens of great companies applied for a stock market listing: Kinepolis, IBA, Omega Pharma, Miko, Quest for Growth, Mobistar, EVS, Roularta, Ontex, Remi Claeys Aluminium, Retail Estates and so on.

The BEL 20, the benchmark stock market index of the twenty most important Belgian listed companies, achieved a return of 43% that year. It was a fantastic result, despite a sizeable financial crisis towards the end of the year when huge hedge fund LTCM capsized and almost dragged the entire financial system down with it.

However, such awful moments did not spoil the fun. They were more seen as proof that the stock market was this really exciting place. The stock market was and remained loved. The Hoegaarden brewery showed a clever approach to this with a joke on its coasters that roughly translated as: ' Hell's BELs 20!'

The Zurstrassen brothers and Gégoire de Streel also considered the highly esteemed Brussels stock market as a viable source of income at the time. They founded online stockbroker VMS-Keytrade. Later, this online expert became fully-fledged bank Keytrade Bank. Today, twenty years later, Keytrade Bank is flourishing under the wings of Crédit Mutuel Arkéa.

Congratulations!

Particularly because flourishing is by no means obvious in this context. Actually, the establishment of Keytrade Bank was ill-timed: the stock market's allure was at its highest. Ever since then, this allure went one way: down. The fact that Keytrade Bank moved in the opposite direction – up – is indeed a great achievement.

I am not here to adulate Keytrade Bank. At any rate, it seems more interesting to answer the question: 'Why did the reputation of equity investments in Belgium melt away so significantly?' In search of an answer, I listed the ruthless killers of the Brussels stock market culture. Initially, I thought I could come up with five killers if I thought long and hard. After about half an hour, I had already found ten without any trouble. That is when I decided to stop. It was not a particularly pleasant exercise to undertake.

It led me to a Belgian killer elite jeopardising a highly necessary pillar of a prosperous society.

  1. The decline of stockbroking firms. In the 80s, Belgium still had more than two hundred stockbroking firms. Today, this crucial contact between the stock market and small investors has virtually disappeared, mainly due to a tsunami of legal requirements and investment needs. Establishing a stockbroking company has almost become impossible today.
  2. The Albert Frère phenomenon. Walloon financier Albert Frère masterfully collected Belgium's great industrial treasures in order to later flog them to France one by one, about twenty years ago. Frère had his finger in the pie of the sales of Petrofina, Electrabel, Royale Belge, Cockerill Sambre and BBL. They were all Belgian gems and are now part of Total, Engie, Axa, Arcelor Mittal and ING, respectively. They constituted a huge loss for the Brussels stock market.
  3. When Lernout & Hauspie left everyone speechless. Twenty years ago, IT flagship Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products was the Flemish region's pride and joy. For a while in early 2000, LHSP was the fifth largest company in Belgium. Tens of thousands of small investors had put their money in this unlikely success story, which unfortunately was built more on air and deception than technological ingenuity.
  4. The exodus of the insurers. Because of the substantial, wealthy, steadfast shareholders of twenty years ago, Belgian companies were more at ease than they are now in these times of large numbers of anonymous, volatile shareholders. In a first round, stock market giants such as Royale Belge sold their Belgian interests because they themselves were Belgian no more (see item 2). Then they sold because the Belgian regulators barely allowed them to own shares.
  5. The crisis ten years ago. There were many causes and many parties responsible for the financial crisis of 2008. The banks also made mistakes: in the US by massively offering mortgage loans to families who would never be able to make the repayments and elsewhere in the world by investing massively in those worthless loans through shady products. The stock market itself actually had nothing to do with the crisis, but ordinary people – and many well-known people – pointed to it as the cause of all this misery. This was unfortunate and incorrect: stock investors who could afford to simply sit out these events of 2008 and 2009 have now more than recovered their money. Unfortunately, many sold at the worst possible time.
  6. No more solid shares typically held by affluent, prudent investors. Dexia and Fortis left many people with a financial hangover and a permanent dislike of the stock market.
  7. The Arco cesspit. On 18 September 2008, at the deepest point of the crisis four days after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Chairman of the Board Francine Swiggers wrote in Arco's members magazine: "Fortunately, there are still stable financial products out there for investors looking for an investment that is not affected by stock market fluctuations. One indisputable example of these is Arcopar D shares, a profitable and flexible financing formula." These incredibly misleading words are detrimental to the reputation of the stock market. 'Investor' and 'investment' are used in a context of just a single share, Dexia. This is much more reckless than what an investor would ever do. The unfortunate Arco story has nothing to do with savings or 'investments'. The fact that to this day political party CD&V relates these events to the stock market to run the stock market down in the hope of winning votes raises questions. After all, irresponsible and reckless Arco was a cooperative holding of Christian trade union ACW (now beweging.net), a member of the CD&V family.
  8. An orgy of stock market taxes. Even though the stock market was not to blame for the financial crisis in 2008 and the Arco fiasco in 2011, its reputation had been badly damaged. The governments led by Elio Di Rupo and Charles Michel believed they could win votes by inflicting tax penalties on small investors. The series of tax introductions and increases that followed was nothing short of spectacular and downright disgraceful. Some examples from the past ten years:
    1. Withholding tax on dividends from shares: +100%
    2. Withholding tax on dividends from regulated real estate companies (with the exception of healthcare real estate): +100%
    3. Stock market tax for share transactions: +106%
    4. Stock market tax on the sale of capitalisation equity funds: +164%
    5. Abolition of share strips with reduced withholding tax entitlement
    6. Introduction of 0.15% securities tax from an invested amount of €500,000
    7. Introduction and subsequent cancellation of a tax on the rich and a tax on speculation
    8. Continuous threat of capital gains tax
  9. Endless smear campaign in the Flemish media. Shares were said to be for the rich, the fiddlers, the gamblers. They were said to promote inequality, whereas the opposite is true: if as many ordinary people as possible were to save their money in shares, there would be less inequality and general prosperity would increase, so that more funds would be available to help those who stayed behind.
  10. Ultra-low interest rates. Businesses no longer see the point of a stock market listing. The first reason for this is the enormous burden of its rules and obligations, while the second reason is that low interest rates allow them to finance their operations cheaply through loans. Why would they go through all the red tape of going public?

As promised, I will stop here. Enough talk about killers.

However, it is essential to neutralise these killers before it is too late. The stock market is an economy lifeline. An ailing stock market will also make its community sick. It is driven by people who are willing to take risks, so what if nobody wants to do that anymore? If everyone puts everything in a savings account that loses money, what then? The country will come to a halt and our prosperity will evaporate.

I think we can all agree that that is not what we want. We are and will remain optimistic: stock market aversion is gradually reaching its low point. We believe that enough future policymakers understand the logic and urgency of a healthy savings culture. We believe that the next government will realise that savers must get a fair chance to achieve a good return. It will then hopefully take the appropriate measures to ensure that investors and companies are welcomed rather than shunned. So which measures will it need to take? There are plenty of possibilities to choose from this table.

Seven ways to encourage efficient savings

  • Give founder shares five (or up to ten) voting rights in the IPO. This ensures that the family business owners retain control.
  • Encourage local trade in small shares (market value < €1 billion), for example by reducing the withholding tax on dividends for that category.
  • Encourage optional dividends with a lower withholding tax on dividends paid in shares.
  • Tackle the favourable tax treatment of savings accounts: rather than setting a fixed amount of tax-free interest income (€960 this year), set a maximum amount for which no tax is due: €20,000, for example. This means that the higher the interest rate, the more attractive savings accounts become.
  • Encourage long-term investments, for example with tax incentives for several years of shareholding.
  • Educate! Make sure the people understand the virtues of efficient saving. Make 'savings and investments' a mandatory subject for Flemish sixteen-year-olds.
  • Stop the amateurish legislative tinkering and stop devising more and more new tax monstrosities. Instead, provide years of fiscal stability!

This table is by no means complete. The government does not have to introduce all measures. It may come up with ideas that are quite different from the seven recommendations above. Of course it is free to choose, but we sincerely hope that it will make substantial progress on the final item: fiscal stability. That alone would ensure that the next twenty Keytrade years will be more prosperous than the first twenty.

Pierre Huylenbroeck is the author of Onsterfelijk Beursadvies and Iedereen Belegger. He publishes Mister Market Magazine, a biweekly digital journal for curious investors. Please download a free trial issue.

This article does not contain any investment advice or recommendation, nor a financial analysis. Nothing in this article may be construed as information with a contractual value of any sort whatsoever. This article is intended for information only and does not constitute in any way a commercialization of financial products. Keytrade Bank cannot be held liable for any decision made based on the information contained in this article, nor for its use by third parties. Every investment entails risks such as a possible loss of capital. Before investing in financial instruments, please inform yourself properly and read carefully the document "Overview of the principal characteristics and risks of financial instruments" that you can find in the Document centre.

Close

20 years

Happy Birthday Quentin!
Happy Birthday Keytrade Bank!

Some share their birthday with Beyoncé. Others with Barack Obama. But Quentin Lapagne, a cheerful student from La Roche-en-Ardenne celebrates his with... Keytrade Bank. Both came into the world 20 years ago on this day. Quentin has more in common with Keytrade Bank than just his date of birth.

Read more of this story

With 20 years under his belt, Quentin is no longer a teenager. The breaking of his voice and sneaking a first kiss? They seem like a distant memory. Studying hard, living independently in student digs in Liege, cooking spaghetti for himself: Quentin started living on his own one year ago.

With a little help from a bank

"I also take care of my own banking. I was looking for a bank that makes it easy for me to do everything online. An acquaintance recommended Keytrade Bank. Although I had some doubts at first", explains Quentin. "Keytrade Bank has no regional branches, just one in Brussels. What if I needed to sign something or had a problem: would I need to go to Brussels? As yet, this hasn't been an issue at all. I have contacted the contact center twice now. Once to replace my bank card. Both times, the contact center was quick to answer my question, no hassle. What's more, it can be reached until late in the evening. That's a real bonus!", says Quentin. "I grew up during the bank crisis. So it's good to know that you have a bank you can trust. Even at a distance."

Studying and money

A year ago, Quentin opened both a current account and a savings account. "As a student, this is all I need for now. Making bank transfers. Withdrawing money from an ATM. Daily shopping, from bread to a cinema ticket. And putting some money aside", explains Quentin. "Investing? I have dug up some information on this, but have decided that now is not the time for me to invest. I might do when I earn an income", says the Sales Engineer student.

Banking on your smartphone

Twenty years ago, a mobile phone generally had three functions: phoning, texting and - if you were lucky enough - play games. Nowadays, with a mobile phone, you can book a flight, find the love of your life and, of course: do your banking. "I use the Keytrade Bank app every week. I only use my laptop if I want a more detailed overview", summarises Quentin. "As I have a bank account only at Keytrade Bank, it's important for me to arrange my bank affairs quickly and easily. No hassle, transparent and easy to contact if there is a problem. After all, you don't live to do your banking!"

Quentin Lapagne (20)

  • From La Roche-en-Ardenne, living in a student digs in Liege
  • Is studying to become a sales engineer
  • Centre-back at ROC Rochois (and supporter of Club Brugge)
  • Loves films

This also happened in 1998:

  1. Monica Lewinsky and President Bill Clinton …
  2. The heydays of Boyzone, Britney Spears, Vengaboys, The Offspring and Marco Borsato.
  3. Every child had to have furry animal Furby.
  4. The Big Lebowski is the coolest film of the year and Titanic goes home with 11 Oscars.
  5. BRTN becomes VRT.
  6. PoplegendePop legend Frank Sinatra dies, pop idol Shawn Mendes is born.
  7. Technology first: the world sees the first iMac and memory stick, and PayPal starts operations.
  8. Spaceshuttle Discovery goes up into space with a 77-year old astronaut, the oldest person ever to do so.
Close




 

Our entirely subjective review of the past 20 years

Go ahead, dig back into your own memories or the collective one provided by Hollywood. In the movies, successful start-ups almost always begin in an old shed. Add two or three friends with a brilliant idea and rather unique ideas about hygiene, and somewhere between the pizza boxes, a 'billion dollar prototype' emerges. Then you usually jump a few years into the future, to a conference room full of leather armchairs and polished yes-men in suits.

Read more of this story

Belgian reality is different, but also not. We'd like to take you back to our bank's early years, when two brothers and their friend had just sold Skynet to Belgacom and decided to use the profits to brave the American stock exchange. They were looking for easy access, but that wasn't available from traditional banks back then. So they got to work and created it for themselves as a tiny agency together with the Van Moer-Santerre brokerage. VMS Keytrade, the first Belgian online trading platform to be simple, online, transparent and competitively priced, was born.

It's now twenty years later, but the start-up mentality from the early days is still very much present amongst our 200 employees at Watermaal Bosvoorde… even though the two brothers and their friend are long gone. Our company has grown up and is now a fully-fledged online bank. The first and only of its kind in Belgium. Unique in every sense of the word. Still just as faithful to our founders' principles of ease of use, transparency and competitiveness, we have more than weathered the necessary regulatory aftermath of the financial crisis. And we all know the impact that had on the banking industry.

Things were a bit different for Keytrade Bank. We made it through 2007 and 2008 as unscathed as we entered those years. In 2009, we even took on Kaupthing Bank's Belgian clients, while other banks were either licking their wounds or recently taken over by the State or an even larger bank. We gave duped savers the safe harbour they needed and committed ourselves fully to online solutions that make a difference.

Oft-copied

Our bank has often showed the way these past two decades. Other banks tended to follow our lead. Just look at the current banking landscape, where online 'digital' banking has become standard. Physical offices seem a thorn in the side of many banks opting for the digital pathway.

There are other examples too, such as marketing. In 2002, we were the first bank to reward the transfer of securities from one bank to another. In 2007, Keytrade Bank also started rewarding transactions instead of charging for them. We currently remain the only bank to pay our clients for their transactions.

We partnered with Humo to support Mother Earth with free shares in a water and climate fund in 2008. Our bank also organised speed dating sessions to introduce investors to one another, bringing a stop to boring trade events. We added asset management using algorithms for our investors a few years back, long before almost all the major banks started launching their robot advisers. More recently, we were the first with an entirely online process for a traditionally very offline product. If someone had told you a few years ago that you could complete the financing for your new home entirely online, you would have declared them insane.

We don't know how long we can continue to hold the lead considering the current explosion of digital solutions. Better adherence to better conditions does seem a strategy you'll appreciate, though.

No success without failure

Of course, in the course of twenty years not all of a bank's decisions can be correct. Sometimes we were too early, or backed the wrong horse. Remember Second Life? Keytrade Bank was the first bank with a presence there, but we doubt anyone today remembers but a few lost gamers and some of our nostalgic staff. Ever heard of WAP? Um what? we hear you thinking. Well, at some point Keytrade Bank tried to use it for stock market transactions. It didn't succeed, unlike our Keytrade Pro platform.

Such an adoption of the wrong technology can be very educational. The most obvious lesson is that it was a waste of money, time and energy, of course. That it's to be expected is another, much wiser lesson. Unfortunately, taking a chance can sometimes mean we're too early. That was the case with KeyKash, an NFC solution at a time when people hadn't yet all become addicted to their smartphones and near-field communication sounded like something out of an old Star Trek episode.

The power of the few

It's worth noting that at Keytrade Bank, we have managed significant growth with only a few people. As FinTech pioneers, we combine a can-do mentality with hard work and a bit of MacGyver. When you compare our bank's organisation with that of traditional banks, our numbers are truly tiny. A tenth of the customers of a major bank and a hundredth of the staff. That just goes to show the power of our few.

Now, twenty years later, at Keytrade Bank we still look mostly ahead. We aim to remain the benchmark for customers looking for quality, transparency, correct and competitive fees, plus that little something extra that keeps us unique.

Thank you for your trust in us!
The Keytrade Bank team

close

Two decades in images

 

1998

VMS Keytrade is founded by José Zurstrassen, Jean-Guillaume Zurstrassen and Grégoire de Streel.

1999

The conception of our way of communicating.

2002

And at that moment Keytrade became a bank

2007

How money talks in... images.

2011

Are you paying your bank? Or is your bank paying you? Crystal clear at Keytrade Bank.

2012

The launch of our iPad app.

2017

Merger of Keytrade Bank and Fortuneo Bank.

2018

Why is there a sheep in a Lambo? How a credit rate is being determined in other banks? Our commercials of this year

2018

As Urban Trail Sponsor we challenge those who dare.