Bank Degroof s.a.

I've seen quite a few public squares in Brussels but only two with parks in the center. Bank Degroof, Belgium's largest private bank (assets under management 14.7 billion Euros), occupies several connecting buildings overlooking one of these park squares. Located about five blocks from the European Union Parliament, most of the other buildings surrounding this prestigious square seem to be occupied by EU offices. However, one side of the square is dominated by a large church.

The main entrance is via the modernistic glass structure seen in the picture accompanying this story. One has to pass muster with security before being allowed in. After explaining who I am and how I mailed a letter of introduction a month earlier to Alain Siaens, Chairman-Executive Committee, I'm taken into a room and the door is shut. Oh no, I hope this isn't going to be similar to those awful experiences I had visiting secretive Swiss private banks where I would be immediately whisked into a small room, the door closed and then made to wait up to an hour only to be repeatedly given excuses why someone can't meet with me.Whew, my fears are unfounded here thanks to the accommodating Patrick Keusters, Administrator and one of eight directors on the Executive Committee.

Founded in Brussels back in 1871 about 400 work in the head office. Was there or is there a Mr. Degroof? No, it's a made-up name as the founding family (Philippson) was Jewish and decided the non-Jewish sounding name of Degroof was better for business. Parking is tight as senior management gets reserved parking spots in the underground garage and commuting cyclists enjoy parking in the garage also. Smoking isn't allowed in the building, there are no onsite recreational facilities, it's 15 minutes to the nearest freeway and 30 minutes to Brussels Airport. No executive dining rooms here and no cafeteria stuck in the basement as employees enjoy eating and taking in the view from the top (6th) floor. Any unusual employee perks? Special prices on banking services.

CEO Alain Siaens occupies a second floor office in the four-story, turn-of-the-century classic bankish-looking building to the left in the accompanying photo. Walking past Siaens' office we don't enter as he's on the phone. His view out the window? The well-tended park in the square. I note the fireplace in the boardroom and the boardroom table seats 12.

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