The network of Philippe Voisin, CEO of Crelan - Finance

The network of Philippe Voisin, CEO of Crelan – Finance

Many French people run large Belgian companies. The boss of the Crelan bank is one of them. Although of a discreet nature, the man has established good relations with us in the business world.

His name probably doesn’t tell you much. For five years, Philippe Voisin (59) has been in charge of the Crelan bank, the former Belgian Crédit Agricole (Landbouwkrediet in Flanders). And as Bruno Colmant, who has been working with him for a few years, points out, he has even become a key player in the banking scene in Belgium. It is indeed to this Bordeaux native that we owe the last major Belgian banking marriage to date, namely the merger between Crelan and Axa Banque. An operation like no other which gave birth to the fifth major bank in Belgium and the third major bank with 100% Belgian roots. A deal that required several months of work from Philippe Voisin and the teams involved in the case. A pride also for this lucid and disciplined temperament. “When there is the will, there is the way”, he likes to recall, not forgetting to highlight, in this transaction, the contribution of our compatriot Freddy Bouckaert, former senior executive of Axa who knows the French insurance group well and who put him in touch with his current boss, Thomas Buberl.

His name probably doesn’t tell you much. For five years, Philippe Voisin (59) has been in charge of the Crelan bank, the former Belgian Crédit Agricole (Landbouwkrediet in Flanders). And as Bruno Colmant, who has been working with him for a few years, points out, he has even become a key player in the banking scene in Belgium. It is indeed to this Bordeaux native that we owe the last major Belgian banking marriage to date, namely the merger between Crelan and Axa Banque. An operation like no other which gave birth to the fifth major bank in Belgium and the third major bank with 100% Belgian roots. A deal that required several months of work from Philippe Voisin and the teams involved in the case. A pride also for this lucid and disciplined temperament. “When there is the will, there is the way”, he likes to recall, not forgetting to highlight, in this transaction, the contribution of our compatriot Freddy Bouckaert, former senior executive of Axa who knows the French insurance group well and who put him in touch with his current boss, Thomas Buberl. Initially, however, nothing predestined this lawyer born in Pau, in the southwest of France, to conclude such a deal. Even less probably to become the boss of a large bank in Belgium. In addition, dubbed by a Fleming, Luc Versele, his predecessor at the head of the bank. Son of a senior civil servant in the French administration, Philippe Voisin grew up in Africa and South Korea. After a specialized higher education degree (DESS) in public law at the University of Paris II, completed by a specialization (DEA) in international private law at the University of Paris X, he began his professional life at Airbus. But he quickly branched off and turned to the world of finance. He joined Crédit Agricole in the early 1990s. The young banker then cut his teeth in the Lyon region and in Burgundy (Mâcon). He then moved to Paris to develop the group’s business credit activities in Île de France (Saint-Denis). There followed a passage through the group’s asset management division (Crédit Agricole Asset Management, now Amundi), where he met Fathi Jerfel, current deputy CEO of Amundi, who “knew how to initiate me with patience and enthusiasm in the mysteries of the financial markets” and to which Philippe Voisin remained close. The following is a return to the group’s headquarters in Paris to occupy various supervisory positions within the central management, and where he meets current senior managers of the group, Jérôme Grivet, Hervé Varillon and Philippe Brassac. Above all, it was the start of an international career with a mission as risk director at Cariparma, an Italian subsidiary. “I arrived in a bank that I did not know, but also in a country with a different culture and a language that I did not speak. I learned there how important it is to adapt if one wants to be accepted as a manager.” From this Italian period, Philippe Voisin has also maintained solid friendly relations with several former colleagues such as Giampiero Maioli, head of Crédit Agricole Italia, or Corso Bavagnoli, now managing partner at Lazard, who advised him on the Axa Banque operation. In the same way as Gilles Graham, a former member of the Royal Navy who founded the English investment bank Delfinus. One thing leading to another, this rise within the French bank led him to export again in 2012. This time, he headed for Belgium and Boulevard Sylvain Dupuis in Anderlecht, where Crelan’s headquarters are located. On behalf of his French parent company, the discreet banker is responsible for assuming the function of chief risk officer. An appointment that comes as the French still hold 50% of the Belgian cooperative bank. The job brings Philippe Voisin in particular to meet Geert Noels, economist and CEO of the management company Econopolis, with whom he now has lunch regularly. And then, one day, the Belgian Caissescoopératives shareholders of Crelan decide to take over the 50% of the shares held by the French. We are then in 2015. And there, it is a turning point in the career of Philippe Voisin who chooses not leave Crelan and therefore stay in Belgium. “It was the most difficult decision of my professional life, he tells us. Leaving the family that formed you was not easy. But time has done its work and things have faded. And after I don’t regret it at all.” And for good reason. A few years later, in 2017, Philippe Voisin was offered the position of CEO and succeeded Luc Versele at the head of the bank, the latter becoming chairman of the board of directors. For the rest, on the garden side, this adopted Brussels resident whose two children went to the French high school likes to live in the Observatory district, in Uccle, not far from Place Saint-Job. Passionate about football and a fervent supporter of Paris Saint-Germain, he devotes himself, when his schedule permits, to the joys of table tennis. Member of the Alpa club in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, he has forged friendships with the head of youth training and former high-level player Dirk Roels (70 years old and 58 table tennis seasons) “who has become a close friend”, he confides before adding: “I try to train once a week with Dicky, but I must admit that I have trouble keeping up. J love this sport because it requires concentration, speed and tenacity. And what’s more, the environment here is very friendly”. As for the holidays, there, it’s always in August. It is indeed impossible to miss the Libramont Agricultural Fair, of which Crelan is the main sponsor. He obviously meets there every year the director Natacha Perat of whom Jean-Paul Grégoire, member of the Crelan management committee, is a great friend. No question either of missing the festivities of July 21 and its traditional Te Deum at the Saints-Michel-et-Gudule cathedral. “When you are invited as a representative of a former public bank, which was the INCA (National Institute of Agricultural Credit, Editor’s note) before becoming Crédit Agricole, it is your duty to respect the institutions”, judge the person concerned by way of conclusion.

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