ING announced last week its plans to separate its banking and insurance operations as part of its ongoing review of the Group’s strategy and as a step in its Back to Basics programme, which was designed earlier this year to streamline the company and reduce risk, costs and leverage. This will be achieved over the next four years by a divestment of all insurance operations (including Investment Management). ING will explore all options, including initial public offerings, sales or combinations thereof.

Over the last six months, ING worked internally, and with the Dutch government and the European Commission (EC), to devise a plan that will enable it to pay back the Dutch state, address the EC’s requirements for viability and fair competition, and return its focus to the business and its customers.

“Splitting the company is not a decision we took lightly,” says Jan Hommen, CEO of ING. “ING has a proud history as a global financial services leader and has been a strong advocate for combining banking and insurance in one company. The combination provided us with advantages of scale, capital efficiency and earnings stability through a diversified portfolio of businesses. However, the financial crisis has diminished these benefits. Now, the widespread demand for greater simplicity, reliability and transparency has made a split the optimal course of action. We will work carefully in the coming months and years to manage the separation in a way that will support the success of our businesses in the interests of our customers, employees, shareholders and other providers of capital.”

ING’s banking activities will be based on the proven strengths of gathering savings, distribution leadership, simple propositions and strong marketing. The bank will be predominantly focused on Europe with selective growth options elsewhere. The insurance business will focus on its long-term structural leadership positions in life and retirement services. The business will be managed regionally, with key building blocks including the operations in the Benelux, United States, Central Europe, Latin America and Asia.

Also as part of the restructuring plan, ING will create a new company in the Dutch retail market out of part of its current operations, by combining the Interadvies banking division (including Westland Utrecht and the mortgage activities of Nationale-Nederlanden) and the existing consumer lending portfolio of ING Retail. This business, once separated, will be divested.

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