effort. Of course, many Bank staff also sacrificed their lives in the service of their country. By the end of the conflict, the franc had lost a substantial amount of its value and this, together with the lines drawn across Europe, badly affected the position of Paris as an international financial centre. This meant that new sources of growth had to be found.

The inter-war period: A time for gathering strength

In 1913, the Comptoir d Escompte de Mulhouse, which was based in German territory until 1918, established a French subsidiary, the Banque Nationale de Crédit (BNC), which would expand and later, in 1930, take over its parent bank. This daring and dynamic institution built up a network by buying a number of local French banks. In 1922, it merged with an international merchant bank, Banque Française pour le Commerce et l Industrie. The move enabled the Bank to expand its corporate business, but it became over-involved with some of its clients and went out of business when the 1930s recession struck. The Bank was re-established in 1932, under the name of Banque Nationale pour le Commerce et l Industrie (BNCI). It was spearheaded by the highly talented Alfred Pose, who was appointed General Manager. The Bank made its mark with its dynamic commercial approach and its innovative way of processing transactions with the introduction of back offices specialised processing centres in 1934. Meanwhile Paribas, under its General Manager, Horace Finaly, revived the Bank s partnerships with industries, especially the oil industry, and strengthened its presence in Central Europe, where it represented French interests.

1945-1966: A period of modernisation

Following a sharp drop in business during World War II, when networks abroad were cut off from Paris head offices, the group s forerunner banks began to direct their efforts towards reconstruction. In 1945, banking legislation was passed, which separated merchant and investment banks from deposit-taking banks, and the government nationalised the four largest financial institutions to help the country get back on its feet economically. CNEP and BNCI were nationalised, and opted for deposit bank status. CNEP continued along a cautious path, while BNCI, which since the war, had been building up a broad international network, was still proving to be both competitive and innovative, becoming the first bank to advertise on the radio in 1954. New products were offered to customers, such as personal loans in 1959, and SICAV, or unit trusts, in 1963.

Paribas chose to take merchant bank status, and was not among the four nationalised banks. It achieved fame after the war through its financing of major international projects that supported French industrial exports, such as the Paz del Rio steelworks in Colombia in 1950. Under the management of Jean Reyre, Paribas reasserted its ambitions on the international scene, particularly in Europe. The Bank forged new alliances, was instrumental in the introduction of buyer credits for trade finance in 1965, and also played a pioneering role in the European currency markets that were developing at the time.

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