Businesses in Europe – both large and small – are increasingly having to face the challenges arising from the evolution of an expanded and more unified European marketplace. This has required an adaptation to the way companies are organised both at the business and corporate communications level. And while local legislation and regulators will of course continue to exist, along with culturally defined customer needs, companies across all sectors of the economy are becoming increasingly European, international and specialised. Corporate Communications departments plainly have to keep abreast of the changes occurring within their own companies and in the wider community. As part of a financial services firm with an international growth strategy and some 60,000 employees of 100 nationalities based in 50 countries, Fortis’s Corporate Communications department offers an interesting example of that process. The company’s financial roots stretch back almost three centuries. Fortis’s predecessors traded with Catherine the Great, financed the United States’ purchase of Louisiana from Napoleon, and were active in China as far back as 1902. In 1990, Fortis became the first cross-border company in the European financial sector, since then having integrated five major banks and four major insurance companies in Benelux alone. From that home base, the bank is rapidly expanding into Europe and – selectively – into Asia and North America.
Converging lines of communication
Wilfried Remans is director of corporate communications at Fortis, which he joined in February 2002 as director of press. In his current role, he coordinates the Fortis press activities and the publication of corporate information, and acts as the spokesperson for the company. Before joining Fortis, he was the spokesperson for the Belgian national carrier Sabena until one month after its bankruptcy. He began his career within the Belgian Red Cross as legal advisor and head of the International Humanitarian Law office, and, since 1992, as head of the International department. Wilfried Remans holds a Masters of Law (Leuven, 1990) and postgraduate diplomas in international politics (UCL, 1991) and in business (EHSAL, 1993). He participated in several leadership trainings both within the SAirGroup and Fortis. He is also a guest lecturer on crisis communications for the Brussels VLEKHO management school and the Belgian Royal Military Academy.