and the status of customer accounts was tracked manually, in real time, he said. But we had a fantastically well-organised accounting team, most of them Indian expatriates. On the first working day of the month, the team was able to produce the branch s operating accounts and the financial results of the previous month!
On the business front, the branch had good relations with both local and international companies. The UAE had been independent for over a decade and a great deal of investment was being made in infrastructure, industrial equipment, in the oil sector and in modernising the city of Abu Dhabi.
The Bank was very well positioned in its market, as Lacaze explains. At the time we were very close to the French community, the international community and also the major oil companies. We used to keep ourselves up to date on any projects that might result in calls for tender so we could alert our clients whether local or international firms of such opportunities and offer our banking services if possible before the competition got there! The length of time we had been there gave us an advantage. At that time, the British banks still dominated the market, but we had the largest market share among the continental European banks.
Some European banks, such as BNP, only had a representative office there, while we were able to provide our customers with the whole range of banking services. Several prominent families had opened accounts with us and came into the branch on a regular basis.
José de Naurois, Head of Sales at the Abu Dhabi office from 1979 to 1982, recalls the pioneering role the Bank played. Very few French people knew much about Abu Dhabi and the wider United Arab Emirates in 1979, apart from Total of course, which was the first French company to set up in the Emirates, before Paribas .
The Dubai branch in the 1980s
At the beginning of the 1980s, the Dubai branch was managed by Antoine Adm. During this period, local banks and their British counterparts dominated the market but the Paribas branch remained competitive by providing a broad range of banking services to its clientele. It also had a large share of the import financing market and the letters of credit department was the largest section at the Bank.
Pierre-Jean de Filippis remembers what things were like at that time. As in the other Paribas branches in the Gulf region, everything was done manually, he recalls. The majority of our staff were expatriates and they were remarkably efficient. I remember how surprised I was to discover that their monthly salaries were paid in cash under the supervision of the branch manager; he handed out the envelopes in person to the staff. Those were the days!
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