activity was at its height in 1994 and 1995, before we ceased doing this business, as it wasn t justified in terms of risk/return in such a small banking setup.
It was José Pita, Maurice Blanchet s successor, who made the decision to withdraw from the FRA market. It was then that the trading desk, which was where I worked, turned to one of the mainstays of the Bank as we see it today: market-making in Arab currency forex and rates. It was new, no one was really doing it, and it turned out to be visionary. Since that time, BNP and subsequently BNP Paribas has always been thought of as one of the major players in these markets.
The Bank also played a major role in the management of the BNP Group s short-term liquidity at this time. Eric Josserand, who was the originator of this business, explains. We used to post aggressive spreads on interbank deposits and so we grew into a sort of clearing house for all the BNP Group treasury activities. We took in deposits from BNP Asia treasury operations in the morning, from Europe in the middle of the day, and finally cleared our positions in all currencies with the treasury departments in San Francisco and New York in the evening.
BNP and Paribas in the Gulf: Inverse business models
Recalling the respective banks positions in Bahrain a few years prior to the merger, Eric Josserand points out that the business models of BNP and Paribas in the Gulf region were not only different but in fact the antitheses of their respective images BNP being a commercial lending bank and Paribas a market trading and industrial investment bank. It s interesting to note that during this pre-merger era, Paribas was doing its utmost to develop a corporate clients franchise in the region and was having nothing to do with the capital markets, while BNP was essentially a trading room.
Albert s prices
Eric Josserand tells this anecdote about Albert Bossuet, who had spent several months in Bahrain setting up BNP s trading room there and who subsequently became known as one of the most respected heads of the BNP Paribas Capital Markets team.
Some years ago, while chatting with one of the British brokers who had been there for about the same amount of time as me, I mentioned the fact that Albert, my direct boss, who had been one of the founders of the Bahrain branch, was about to retire.
The British broker s face lit up and he told me he had just remembered that for more than 20 years his broker colleagues used to write the various banks reference prices every day on a blackboard, at the top of which was written Albert s prices.
68 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