On 7 March 1848, the Provisional Government of the French Republic decided to create short-term credit institutions in France’s largest cities. This initiative was a response to an urgent need: to stop the economic crisis that had struck the country for two years by reviving business loans. Among the 69 discount banks set up across France that year were two originating banks of the French branch of BNP Paribas. A closer look at two pioneers serving their regional economy: CNEP (Comptoir national d’escompte de Paris) and CNEM (Comptoir national d’escompte de Mulhouse).
CNEP, a bank born of the economic crisis and the commitment of booksellers
CNEP was founded on 8 March 1848 through the joint action of France’s central government, the city of Paris, and a group of Parisian publishers and booksellers, who like many entrepreneurs and merchants, were weakened by the economic crisis that paralysed France. How could they function if drafts between merchants and suppliers were no longer accepted? That was the issue behind their commitment in establishing CNEP.
While they were not the only ones concerned with credit, booksellers, close to the republican political power, provided the necessary impetus for the plan aiming to restore business loans and confidence..
Since its creation, CNEP has demonstrated its usefulness. In 1860, following the free trade agreement with England, it began to expand its activities to financing French companies abroad. This led to its first branches in Shanghai and Calcutta. The Group’s international tradition already existed!
Over nearly two centuries of bank mergers and alliances, CNEP changed its name and governance. It made way for BNP, then BNP Paribas, but its original purpose has continued: to contribute to the financing of the economy.
To learn more, watch the video “L’escompte, la formule de crédit à court terme qui a financé l’économie française jusque dans les années 1960” [Discounting: the form of short-term credit that financed the French economic until the 1960s], featuring Patrice Baubeau of University Paris-Ouest La Défense.
CNEM, an institution serving industrial development in north-eastern France
CNEM (Comptoir de Mulhouse) was created on 11 March 1848 on the initiative of France’s central government and a group of Alsatian manufacturers, representing the textile and mechanical sectors.
CNEM was very dynamic and built upon the flourishing regional activity. It bought out numerous institutions in the northeast but also in Lyon, Marseille, Le Havre, and Paris.
In the early 1900s, this institution, where the genealogy of BNP Paribas begins, became one of the first French regional banks.
Discover its unknown history in the video featuring Nicolas Stoskopf, emeritus professor at Université de Haute Alsace.
Did you know?
Although the French history of BNP Paribas dates back to 1848, the Group’s oldest forerunner was founded in 1822 in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, which combined the Belgian and Dutch provinces at the time. Created in Brussels by the Royal Decree of 13 December 1822 by Guillaume I to promote national industry, Société Générale des Pays-Bas, which became Société Générale de Belgique in 1830, played a vital role in Belgium’s economic and industrial history. From 1822 to 1998, the institution changed its name several times and underwent mergers. In 1998, it joined the Belgian-Dutch Fortis Group. Then in 2009, BNP Paribas bought out the Belgian branch of Fortis, which became BNP Paribas Fortis. The BNP Paribas Group will celebrate the year 1822 around the world during its bicentenary in 2022.