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ING Chief Executive Hamers Says Bank Will Seek ECB Funds

ING Groep NV, the biggest Dutch lender, plans to borrow funds in the European Central Bank’s first auction of cheap cash designed to boost loans to companies and individuals.

The bank, based in Amsterdam, hasn’t decided how much it will apply for, Chief Executive Officer Ralph Hamers said today at a press conference in Istanbul, adding the bank is seeking to expand in the small and medium-sized business segment.

With the loans, known as targeted longer-term refinancing operations, or TLTROs, the ECB is seeking to expand credit to businesses and households and revive growth. ING is focusing on expanding its banking activities after shedding insurance assets to repay a state bailout.

“TLTRO funding is aimed at a segment in which we want to grow and since its so competitively priced, we will apply,” Hamers said. “We haven’t yet decided how much.”

Hamers says that ING, which spun off its insurance arm NN Group NV in July, expects to be a “pure bank” in one-to-two years, once its restructuring is complete. The sale of 28.6 percent of NN Group brought ING closer to the end of a restructuring program imposed by European Union regulators following the 2008 bailout from the Netherlands.

“Our ambition is to develop in all the markets that we’re active,” he said, citing France, Poland, Romania, Turkey and Germany as particular areas of focus. “In the markets that don’t grow by themselves, basically western Europe, growth means you take market share.”

Hamers said technology is central to his growth strategy, citing Belgium as an example.

“Until six, seven years ago, we were working very hard, doing the same as everyone else does, and we moved our market share up or down half a percent,” he said. A focus on mobile banking helped the lender expand its customer base in Belgium by 25 percent over the last four years, he said.

“We see that non-bank players are attacking our models each day,” he said, while unveiling two telephone applications and a customer-services robot through which the bank hopes to access more customers in Turkey.

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