An innovative bank: Banque Nationale pour le Commerce et l’Industrie (BNCI)

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An innovative bank: Banque Nationale pour le Commerce et l’Industrie (BNCI)

From the moment it was set up in 1932, the Banque Nationale pour le Commerce et l’Industrie (BNCI) displayed remarkable dynamism and capacity for innovation, as regards both the banking business and its organisational structure.

It was the bank’s first Chairman, François Albert-Buisson and its first Managing Director Alfred Pose, who from 1932 energetically set about making changes, reorganising the bank and modernising its structures. They took over staff, headquarters and customers from Banque Nationale de Crédit (BNC) which had recently been wound up, and at the same time they took over its combative, innovative spirit.

BNCI's advertising poster, 1942 - BNP Paribas Historical Archives
BNCI’s advertising poster, 1942 – BNP Paribas Historical Archives

BNCI gradually established regional administrative centres, equipped with machines that could bulk-process the operations carried out at the branch counters, and so serve customers much faster. In addition, the bank offered French companies a new advisory service focusing on prospecting for new markets abroad and the necessary administrative steps involved. In 1964, it was also one of the first French banks, in partnership with the Banque de l’Union Parisienne, to offer shares in a SICAV (unit trust). Last but not least, in 1954 it became the first French bank to use radio advertising.

Very early on BNCI introduced an enlightened staff relations policy designed to ensure employee well-being. Among other initiatives, the bank set up staff holiday centres and the Louveciennes activity centre, which is now the BNP Paribas Campus.

A substantial overseas network

BNCI took a highly dynamic approach, both as regards its products and services and in terms of geographical expansion, taking over a number of regional banks. During the Second World War, with the European economy moribund, BNCI looked overseas to set up new establishments, including BICI, BMCI and BNCIA. After the war, the bank pursued an innovative strategy of giving foreign branches the status of subsidiary companies, which enabled it to grow and then adapt its network, particularly during the decolonisation era.

BNCI in Tunisia and Algeria, 1953 - BNP Paribas Historical Archives
BNCI in Tunisia and Algeria, 1953 – BNP Paribas Historical Archives

By 1945, BNCI had become one of the four largest French deposit banks, which meant it was one of those nationalised by the French government. Under Managing Director Pierre Ledoux, the bank extended its operations abroad. In 1965, on the eve of the merger with Comptoir National d’Escompte de Paris (CNEP) that gave birth to the Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP), BNCI boasted 1,050 branches in France and 30 subsidiaries overseas. This made it the number one French bank in terms of the size of its overseas network.

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