Paribas President Jacques de Fouchier, through the eyes of The Times of London
In an article entitled The man whose innovations shook the money temple, published on 14 February 1974, The Times described the President of Paribas:
M. Jacques de Fouchier, the President of the Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas, is one of the most dynamic personalities of the French banking world.
To impose his innovations he had to shake the columns of the temple of French banking. It did not collapse, but adopted his ideas wholesale. With him, imagination took over in French banking. Even now, at the summit of his profession and an age when many men sit back and enjoy the fruits of success, he does not rest on his laurels. He still practices non- stop banking.
He is always looking for new sectors of endeavour, where initiative and expert knowledge are required. As he showed in an interview at the headquarters of Paribas, in a room where Napoleon was married to Josephine in March 1796, he regards the oil crisis as opening up vast horizons for French banking, if it plays its cards skillfully.
Paribas assessment was that the region was undergoing significant changes that could provide the Bank with numerous opportunities. There was considerable potential in various sectors: in the industrial sector, where a large number of projects were under way that might be of interest to French companies; in the commercial sector, with the increase in imports of consumer goods; and of course in the financial sector, where the need to diversify investment channels offered real opportunities at a time when British influence was on the decline.
However, as far as Paribas was concerned, France s local interests in the emirates were not a sufficient reason on which to base action in the region. De Kémoularia writes18: The opening of representative offices, taking shareholdings in local banks, providing technical and management expertise to help establish local banks: we should look at all these opportunities both at the regional level and for each individual emirate.
Opening the first branches in Qatar and Abu Dhabi
Paribas remained very determined. De Kémoularia went to Qatar in July 1972, and submitted an official request to H.E. Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Minister of Finance, to open a Paribas branch in Doha. On 10 August, he received a letter confirming an agreement in principle from the Emir of Qatar, H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani. The Doha office, Paribas first branch in the Gulf, was inaugurated on 21 June 1973, and opened its doors for business on 1 July, under the management of Robert Lambert.
At the same time, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs suggested to Paribas that the Bank should open a branch in Bahrain. There were already 17 banks operating in the country and Paribas management had already decided to look at the UAE, specifically Abu Dhabi.
On 7 July 1972, Paribas President Jacques de Fouchier made an official request in a letter addressed to H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Ruler of Abu Dhabi, for authorisation to open a branch in the emirate. The license for the Abu Dhabi branch was issued in August 1973.
De Fouchier supported his original request with the following argument: The absence of a major French bank in Abu Dhabi certainly represents a serious handicap if we are to ensure the development of economic and financial relations between our two countries. Our Bank s tradition we have just celebrated one hundred years of banking, our base in France and elsewhere in Europe and our eminent position on the international capital markets, all strengthen my conviction that our active presence in Abu Dhabi would also be a major advantage for the development of your country.
18. Report on the trip to the Gulf region, Claude de Kémoularia s note dated 6 June 1972
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