The last couple of years, financial conglomerates have been established all over Europe. This horizontal diversification has not only attracted a great deal of attention in the banking and insurance sector but has also alarmed the supervisory authorities and the European Commission. Although the benefits of financial conglomerates are straightforward, it is clear that quite a number of potential risks can not be ignored. Since the phenomenon of "financial conglomeration" is rather new, the regulators do not possess a great deal of objective, scientific reference bases on which to construct the necessary regulations. Moreover the complexities and specific char- acteristics of the financial conglomerates do not permit a simple extrapolation of the rules for industrial conglomerates. Even the extrapolation of banking regula- tions to insurance groups and vice versa poses a lot of difficult questions. These observations lie at the origin of the research carried out at the Erasmus Finance and Insurance Centre (EPIC at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam), in collaboration with the Impulse Centre for Financial Services and Insurance (ALEA at the Vlerick School of Management of the University of Ghent). To confront the research results with the expertise of the business world and the supervisory authorities a workshop was organised in Rotterdam (1994). This publication is partly based on these research results and the workshop discussions. Three main blocs can be distinguished: the definition of financial conglomerates; the potential risks and the regulatory aspects; the strategic issues.
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