If anything good came out of the financial crisis, it could be the opportunity for ABN Amro to rebuild its shipping portfolio.
At least, the chance to rebuild its loan book in the maritime industry was one of the benefits that the Dutch bank got out of the fall and splitting into two of the troubled Fortis Bank: One piece for the Belgians and another for the Dutch.
Today, the result is obvious, if you ask the ambitious Amsterdam-headquartered bank. The process provided a chance to rebuild its loan portfolio at a time when prices had dipped and were attractive, Gust Biesbroeck, head of shipping at ABN Amro, tells ShippingWatch.
An opportunity to rebuild
"The 2009 split gave us the appetite to rebuild our shipping portfolio. Ever since, we have continued to grow our business in this segment. During the five years, we have almost tripled our volume in shipping and we expect to add another ten percent every year."
The Dutch optimism is not necessarily shared by competitors from other European financial institutions, like some of the German banks who have specifically stated that their interest in shipping is a thing of the past.
So why is ABN Amro so much into shipping right now?
"First of all, because we are very familiar with the industry and ship finance, a story that goes all the way back to 1720. Also, today there are three good reasons for us to maintain focus in this segment: It is still a good time to enter (the segment, edt.). Competitors are less active. And we had and still have good contacts in the industry that we want to maintain and build upon," Gust Biesbroeck explains.
Holistic view of shipping
Unlike some of its competitors, ABN Amro has a more holistic view of shipping as only one part of the entire energy- and raw materials value chain which form production, through transportation to storage and distribution. All in all, the shipfinance portfolio totals in excess of 8 billion, an amount which excludes the growing exposure to the off-shore industry. This puts the Dutch bank in the mid-field of the biggest shipping banks in the world, far from giants like Norwegian DNB, but what the stakeholders in the industry would refer to as a "significant player."
ABN Amro is active in the main segments in shipping: tanker, bulk and container and likes to emphasize its role as an active bank.
"Our view is that we want to remain relevant in a rapidly changing market, with more diversity in sources of capital available to shipping" Gust Biesbroeck adds.
To be visible and present in the shipping hubs around the world, ABN has recently established a global advisory team dealing with shipping and the shipping markets . Ten people from the offices in Amsterdam, Singapore and New York make up the new team.