In top gear with Dracula

“It has been at least 12 years since I last visited Romania or Poland, and as part of reconnecting with our Eastern European franchise, Bucharest was the first stop. Home to many US and Asian corporates, Romania was one of the countries ING entered first after Eastern Europe opened up to business after communism fell.”

Last year, ING celebrated its 20th anniversary in Romania, which testifies to the solid European emerging market angle that we have been offering our international clients ever since.

Jeroen Plag

 

A blog by Jeroen Plag, head of Client Coverage Americas, Asia & UK, ING, on a business trip in Romania and Poland.

 

According to our local colleagues it took a decennium for the Romanian people to adjust to a post-communist era. With various financial shocks, global and European turmoil, the economic progress the country is making is actually quite remarkable and impressive. Forecasted at close to 4% growth for 2016, the country already hosts many international corporates and more are looking to settle there, as business and process outsourcing in Romania is taking flight. With a very mobile and young population, Latin roots, good language proficiency, it makes it easier for companies to set up shop. Interestingly enough, where western European countries will experience a significant demographic shift in the next decennia, Romania has already experienced theirs. As roughly 3 million Romanians relocated to other parts of Europe, mostly Mediterranean countries, in the past 8 years. 

When I think of Romania, the region of Transylvania comes to mind, with the Bran Castle of Dracula. That’s where the Top Gear crew raced a few years ago, trying out the new Ferrari. They also got to race against one another in the tunnels of the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest, apparently the second largest building in the world, after the US Pentagon. A relic of the communist era, the Palace is the world's largest civilian building with an administrative function. It is also the most expensive administrative building and the heaviest!

The next stop was Warsaw where we met with Asian and US corporates as well. Having suffered the same fate during the Second World War as my hometown of Rotterdam, the city of Warsaw has dramatically reinvented itself. Different from the other Central European capital cities, it is busy developing a rather impressive modern skyline (see picture). Architects are having a field day as the designs are truly magnificent outside as well as inside, where high tech combines nicely with comfort. Our new office building is an iconic building as well, a little further away from the aforementioned skyline, and with some 20 floors not a real skyscraper, but within the same spirit indeed very much a modern and transparent building. 

Similar to Romania, all international companies have a presence in Poland, which is increasing rapidly in importance. With one of our Japanese clients, we discussed their plans to upgrade their local operations to a regional Central European headquarters while with a US corporate we discussed the possibility for Poland to become the gateway to CEE. The port facilities of Gdansk are improving, as is most other infrastructure, allowing the company to establish a firmer foothold in the country. This is in line with the Chinese Belt and Road initiative that was presented by president Xi Jinping in 2013 which comprises the Chinese development strategy to build stronger economic ties. The principal aim is to boost connectivity and commerce between China and some 60 countries. This initiative effects some 4.4 billion people and will focus on building infrastructure and boosting financial and trade ties.

Then our driver sped us back to the airport, clearly a Top Gear fan as well, as he got us there in no time at all! Flying away from the hyper modernistic airport of Warsaw, I pledged to be back within the next 12 years…

Follow Jeroen on Twitter: @JeroenPlag