where the two banks were both doing business with a modest number of employees. You can see what a long way we ve come since the merger, we ve really built scale.
At the beginning of 2001, the newly-established Bank had permanent establishments in Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Qatar. These four branches reported directly to Paris and formed, at that time, part of the BNP Paribas Retail Banking Division.
The Gulf setup was still relatively small but retained good links with a number of specialised business lines at headquarters in Paris. By the time the two banks joined together, the Gulf was already seen as a region in its own right, even if that was not yet reflected in organisational charts. François Dauge was Head of the Near and Middle East region. Of course, on the ground we re a small player, but we have the advantage of long experience in the region, he said at the time of the merger. We can capitalise on the market potential with the range and quality of our services. And we re a real hot zone for the Bank s export and project financing businesses, Corporate Finance, Treasury, Asset Management and for the Financial Institution Group.
Later that year, the regional hub was established. The new system was a marked departure from the previous structure, where branch managers reported directly to the bank s French headquarters. This newly created regional hub was to be co-managed by two of the Bank s main divisions: Corporate & Investment Banking and International Retail Banking. Thierry Gigant, who was working in Bahrain, summarises the situation facing Jean-Christophe Durand. Jean-Christophe is in charge of the two divisions. Getting this new setup to work together is a challenge. But he has a strategy dialogue; and a motto One Team.
Philippe Calafat remembers when the regional hub was first created. Another step change was switching to a regionally-based organisation, which was [a strategy] decided upon in 2002. The Middle East thus took its place as an equal among the other major regions of the Bank Europe, North America, South America, Africa and Asia with a regional director based in Bahrain supervising a network of foreign branches.
The branch network had been extended to cover all the countries of the region with the exception of the Sultanate of Oman. We were still active there, but through Bahrain as the booking centre.
Ali Ben Taher, who worked on the project to set up the new structure from the beginning of 2002, recalls how important co-operation was to making the regional hub work at a time when two banks were integrating. The regional, multi-country hub was a world first in international retail banking. In addition, the hub included the Corporate & Investment Banking, Private Banking and Asset Management businesses. This was a model of co-operation between the Group s various divisions and businesses.
This creation of a regional hub in the Gulf States was the realisation of a highly organised, carefully planned strategy, as Erik Stroet recalls. In April 2002, I joined as regional COO
70 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