BontexGeo is an international manufacturer of geotextiles, with headquarters in the East Flanders town of Zele and production facilities in Belgium and Hungary. Geotextiles are materials which, among other uses, are laid underneath motorways and railway tracks in order to stabilise the construction and extend its lifetime. The company is market leader in Europe and is looking to achieve further growth. However, the market in Belgium and the wider Europe is now fairly flat and no extra growth would seem to be there for the picking. So they’ll have to look elsewhere…but where exactly?
Our Trade Development department knows exactly how to go about things. As far as we know, no other bank in Belgium offers this type of service. The Trade Development network helps corporate clients to develop their business in new markets into which they would like to expand, relieving the client of the task of pursuing leads and contacts on the spot.
In some cases, at a client’s request, the Bank actually works through its worldwide network to seek out promising markets for the client. In such cases, our Trade Development experts take a close look at the client firm, examine its business model from top to bottom, make a worldwide search for relevant opportunities and then discuss those opportunities with the client, applying all their experience and expertise.
Under normal circumstances this service is of real benefit to the client. However, when a crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic makes it difficult – or even impossible – to travel abroad, it then becomes absolutely crucial.
“BontexGeo is a perfect example,” says BNP Paribas Fortis Trade Development Manager Rob Van Veen, explaining: “On 27 April, barely a week after the initial strategic Webex session with the client, Tom De Winter, our Relationship Manager for BontexGeo, brought me in on the discussions. The company was having temporary problems with some aspects of its international search because of the lockdown, in addition to which there were potential extra opportunities in markets further afield. It was of course obvious that if they were going to achieve expansion abroad we needed to go looking for major infrastructure projects, which meant that some new areas outside Europe soon came into consideration.”
“Unfortunately it wasn’t feasible to travel, due to the coronavirus crisis, and in such a moment as that our way of doing things is of vital importance. We work with local ‘partners’ – external consultants who know the local culture, the economic situation and the industry there. They’re under contract to us and they’ll analyse the market and help our clients to find, for instance, distributors or agents. In this way we make it easier for the client to go in search of targeted growth,” Rob Van Veen tells us, adding: “BontexGeo was in fact pleasantly surprised that we were able to provide this service.”
“Moreover, our local partners regularly go and see the end-customer over there,” Rob points out. He knows from experience that “in some countries that’s essential if you want to make sure that the business runs smoothly. Those consultants also take care to ensure that our Belgian clients only do business with sound, reliable partners – which is a great relief to them.” With all of this, the Bank’s Trade Development department services are of enormous value to companies looking to expand abroad.
BontexGeo is now working through the Bank’s consultant partners in two prospective markets in order to take proactive steps to prepare the ground there. All in all, this is a long process. “If you obtain your first order within 9 to 12 months that’s a success,” explains Rob. “In this particular case we got the news on 8 July that the first new contacts had been successful. That’s very positive.”
It’s positive for BontexGeo and for BNP Paribas as well. “The BNP Paribas Group’s worldwide network is of course extremely useful for growth-oriented corporate clients, and the reverse is equally true,” Rob is quick to point out. “By assisting Belgian clients with their ventures abroad, the Trade Development department regularly wins over new clients and new business for other Group divisions in those countries. Very often we help to oil the machinery.”