Marc Antoine Autheman ‐ Chairman of the Board

"The events of recent weeks, as the impact of the COVID-19 has grown, remind us of the fragility of markets to external shocks. We will continue to invest in the strength and resilience of our framework to ensure we meet the challenges facing global financial markets."

Chairman’s message

Dear shareholders,

As I write this, the COVID-19 crisis is having a profound impact on the lives of billions of people and the financial markets around the world. I hope that you are managing to adapt to the challenges this has imposed on us all.

As for many companies and wider society, the human cost on Euroclear has been painful, even if the financial and business impacts have been successfully contained.

 

I am pleased to report that 2019 was another year of outstanding performance for Euroclear. We built on our success in 2018 with continued growth on all fronts: strong revenue growth, ahead of plan, in combination with effective cost control initiatives produced record net profit for the group of €431 million. Your Board is particularly pleased with this performance given we have continued to invest in strengthening our platform for the future.

Based on this sustained performance, and considering the company’s robust capital base, the Board informed all shareholders in February of its intention to recommend a dividend of €82.4 per share, with a 60% pay-out ratio, right in the middle of the 55% to 65% guidance the Board has adopted for future recommendations. 

While the Board remains confident that your Company’s low risk profile and the resilient ature of its business will preserve the safety and profitability of Euroclear in 2020, it will follow the recommendations made by the European Central Bank (ECB) to European banks on 27 March 2020 regarding dividend distributions. In line with the ECB’s recommendations, the Board will postpone any payment of dividends until at least 1 October 2020.

 

Strengthening our framework

We made further progress in strengthening our risk framework and in monitoring its implementation in 2019. Six out of seven operating entities were granted new CSD licenses last year, including Euroclear Bank which became the first International CSD to do so.

This was an important milestone for our company and is testament to our continuous investment in making Euroclear a safe, secure and efficient infrastructure for all financial market participants. None of this would have been possible without the hard work of our management and colleagues in fostering the stability and soundness of our organisation.

Euroclear has been relied upon as a trusted and safe provider of financial market services for over 50 years, and this hallmark of quality from the regulator is further proof of our commitment to our customers.

 

Governance

There have been a number of changes to the composition of our Boards over the course of 2019 and their size has been significantly reduced.

Effective 3 May 2019, the Euroclear Holding Board was reduced to twelve people. Nine Board  members were reappointed and we welcomed three new Board members, Sophie Javary, Anthony Attia and Bert De Graeve.

The following mandates were not renewed at the level of Euroclear Holding: Lieve Mostrey, Eilis Ferran, Bernard Frenay, Inge Boets, Andrew Butcher, Harold Finders, Francis La Salla, Franco Passacantando, Oliver Stuart (who are directors of the main operating company of the group, Euroclear SA/NV) and Patrick Colle, Andrew Murray, Katsunori Obata, Sota Suzuki, and Catherine Langlais, who resigned from the Board. Lieve Mostrey, as group CEO, remains a permanent attendee of the Euroclear Holding Board. I would like to express sincere thanks and recognition to all for their contributions to the Company.

The Euroclear SA/NV (ESA) Board was composed of fifteen Directors including three executive directors and twelve non-executive directors, of whom eight were considered to be independent directors, under the new Belgian Code of Companies and Associations, with effect from the start of 2020.

We welcomed Diana Chan, Yuxin Du, Emeric Laforet and Oliver Stuart to the ESA Board during the financial year.

 

Corporate Responsibility

Never has the focus on the responsibilities placed on business been so great as today. 2019 was the second year that we published Euroclear’s sustainability report, outlining our achievements across corporate social responsibility, in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative Standards.

With green finance reaching record levels in 2019, we have been working to support demand from global issuers and investors to incorporate Environmental, Social and Governance factors into their securities profile and are actively supporting the standardisation of these metrics.

Separately, our white paper on the “Impact of Euroclearability” last year found that our business enables connectivity between domestic bond markets and international investors, allowing growing economies to attract crucial foreign investment. COVID-19 is having a profound impact on capital issuance in emerging markets, and we stand ready to help, to the best of our ability.

 

Liquidity

A key focus for your Board this year has been to undertake a thorough review of liquidity options, with the goal of enabling an orderly transition of the company’s shareholder base. This will, in turn, support the stability and openness of our European Financial Market Infrastructure over time.

Euroclear’s good performance in 2019, and the recent addition of new prominent shareholders, triggered a growing interest in our shares from a variety of investors. These developments supported our plan to prepare a structured initiative which would recognise the value of Euroclear and its ability to generate sustained returns under a low risk profile.

By December 2019, the company’s Boards completed the study phase of this process. However, the COVID-19  pandemic has now led to an economic crisis, the magnitude and length of which is currently unknown. As such, the Board has decided to stop all work on a tentative liquidity initiative, and wait until economic activity and market stability has been restored in a sustained way to consider the matter again.

 

Outlook

Looking ahead, it is clear that 2020 has already proved a challenging year for financial markets. The outbreak of COVID-19 has created significant uncertainty for global economies and markets in the first few months of this year.

The events of recent weeks, as the impact of the COVID-19 has grown, remind us of the fragility of markets to external  shocks. We will continue to invest in the strength and resilience of our framework to ensure we meet the challenges facing global financial markets.

The situation is currently rapidly evolving and the full impact remains unclear at the time of writing this report. The Board continues to monitor the situation closely and considers that, in the short term, Euroclear is well positioned to maintain the stability of its financial market infrastructures and the safety of its operations for the benefit of all market participants, while ensuring the wellbeing of its people. After the COVID-19 crisis subsides, we expect Euroclear to be well placed to continue delivering value to stakeholders through its attractive customer proposition and unique business model as an independent, open financial market infrastructure.

 

Marc Antoine Autheman • Chairman of the Board