EUROPE – Jean-Paul Votron, the new chief executive of Fortis, says the company plans “selective acquisitions and partnerships” in Europe in a bid to boost growth.

Calling Fortis a “diamond in the rough”, Votron declared that the group is aiming at double-digit organic growth over the 2005-2009 period.

“Being one company with banking and insurance as two highly profitable activities, we now want to exploit this potential to accelerate growth while continuing to strictly control costs,” he told analysts.

“In addition to double-digit organic growth, selective acquisitions and partnerships will help to secure a strategic position in Europe.”

Commercial and private banking would be the “backbone” of pan-European expansion.

Votron, who took over as CEO from Anton van Rossum last year, said the appointment of Herman Verwilst as chief operating officer was part of a plan to save E100m euros in costs through integration. “We shall approach the customer as one company under one flag,” Votron said.

Custody arm Information Banking would be integrated with Merchant Banking. Private Banking will join Commercial Banking and Asset Management, which remains under Joop Feilzer.

Feilzer has been appointed to the new position of chief of institutional relations.