NewB cooperative bank lives on after merging with Flemish bank VDK
After initially being forced to cease its banking activities at the end of last year as a result of failing to raise enough funds to keep its licence, NewB bank is back in business thanks to a merger with VDK bank.
VDK, formerly called VDK Spaarbank, is a Belgian commercial bank that advertises itself as an ethical banking option, having been founded in Flanders amidst a workers’ movement in the 1920s and 1930s.
VDK has been the main commercial sponsor of the football team KAA Gent and the women’s volleyball team VDK bank Gent, and is now keeping NewB afloat.
“NewB's cooperators approved the cooperation with VDK bank with a convincing majority,” NewB announced in a press release.
“This means that NewB's customers will be transferred to VDK bank, that NewB will become a banking and investment agent for VDK (with the consent of the regulators) and that NewB and VDK will become partners in the further development of an ethical and sustainable banking practice.”
NewB will remain an insurance agent for Monceau.
“Our cooperators have sent a particularly strong signal today – they consider the need for a Belgian bank in the service of our planet and society to be high,” Bernard Bayot, the chairman of NewB's board of directors, said in a statement.
“They gave their full support to their cooperative's alliance with VDK. We look forward to the start of this cooperation that will herald the beginning of a strong and sustainable bank for the whole of Belgium.”
NewB was forced to cease its banking activities in October 2022 after failing to raise the €40 million needed to keep its licence. But now it has been saved by a bank with a similar set of principles intended to set them apart from traditional options.
“We are extremely happy with the outcome of the [merger] vote,” said Leen Van den Neste, chairwoman of VDK’s executive committee.
The decision to merge with NewB received more than 95% of the votes.
“That such a broad majority of cooperators say yes to our joint project gives us wings,” Van den Neste said.
“We look forward to welcoming NewB's customers, and to making sustainable banking a reality throughout Belgium together with NewB.”
But some of NewB’s other partners, including UCLouvain university, have reportedly decided to leave the project and have asked to recover their investment. For the university, that amounts to an estimated €200,000.
La Libre reports that in addition to UCLouvain, public investors from Brussels and Wallonia are jumping ship and asking for their shares to be repaid – an estimated million euros’ worth.
Other investors may also see the merger as a change in direction and decide to abandon it, with ULB rumoured to be among those considering a withdrawal.
NewB has more than 117,000 investors and partners, aside from these major supporters.