1966: A key year

As part of a wide-ranging plan to kick-start the French economy, Economics Minister Michel Debré wanted to stimulate competition between banks and create a financial strike force . He softened the distinction between merchant/investment banks and deposit-taking banks and eased restrictions on the opening of new branches. In 1966, he merged BNCI with CNEP to form Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP), which became the leading bank in France. The cordial relations between the two General Managers, Henry Bizot and Pierre Ledoux, helped ensure a successful merger of the two entities, which, although highly complementary, had widely differing company cultures.

BNP was now in pole position to serve companies and private individuals in their investment, savings and financial needs. The Bank helped to open up banking services to the mass market by establishing hundreds of local branches and was one of several banks to offer the Carte Bleue payment card. It also expanded its international network. Its advertising campaign in 1973, Votre argent m intéresse ( I m interested in your money ), broke the taboo of talking about money, and still remains today the best-remembered slogan of all bank advertising in France. That was also the year when the group s sponsorship of the French Open tennis tournament was launched. This relationship has expanded through the years far beyond the Roland Garros stadium to become a partnership for tennis that spans the globe.

In 1966, ties between Paribas and Compagnie Bancaire strengthened. Formed in 1959, the Compagnie comprised several specialised finance companies, which had been set up from 1946 onwards by Jacques de Fouchier, a visionary and charismatic entrepreneur. Among these were Cetelem, founded in 1953, which helped households buy domestic electrical appliances; UCB, which specialised in real estate finance; and later, in 1973, Cardif, an insurance company which had developed new kinds of products and distribution channels. Jacques de Fouchier was later to become Chairman of Paribas, injecting an extra dimension of innovation and enterprise into the Bank. In 1968, Paribas took advantage of the new rules authorising link-ups between merchant banks and deposit-taking banks to acquire control of Crédit du Nord, after first making an unsuccessful takeover bid for the Crédit Industriel et Commercial Group.

Nationalisations and privatisations

In 1982, France s new socialist government nationalised BNP, whose staff had been able to hold equity in the Bank since 1973. Paribas shareholders discovered that it too was to be taken into state ownership for the first time. Nevertheless, the 1980s proved to be a period of deregulation and financial innovation. Computer technology began to play a major role in customer service, with the first remote checking of bank statements via the Minitel service an early Internet-type network invented in France and BNP made strenuous efforts to stay ahead of the competition in the area of technology. In 1989,

22 T H E H I S T O R Y O F B N P PA R I B A S I N T H E G U L F S TAT E S