The Comptoir national d’escompte de Mulhouse (1948-1930)

Guebwiler, Comptoir national d’escompte de Mulhouse – BNP Paribas Historical Archives


  • Date range: 1913-1962
  • Physical description: paper archives, posters, photos
  • Volume: 263 UA
  • Physical location: National Archives of the World of Work (ANMT)

Conditions for access and use

  • Access condition: communicable with authorisation
  • Language: French
  • Material characteristics and technical constraints: collection classified in that of the BNC at ANMT and digital format available for annual reports.


Comptoir National d’Escompte de Mulhouse (CNEM) was created by decree on 8 March 1848, under the impetus of the State, and with the support of a group of manufacturers from Alsace, mostly in the textiles and mechanics sectors. This took place at the same time as the creation of Comptoir National d’Escompte de Paris (CNEP), another BNP Paribas group ancestral bank. It was one of the 65 comptoirs d’escompte created in the provinces. Its director, Nicolas Koechlin, was appointed by government decree of 24 March, a provisional board of directors was elected by resolution of the municipal council on 27 March, and operations could begin on 30 March.

The establishment had an initial (theoretical) capital of 1.5 million francs, a considerable amount for a bank that was not intended to make investments on the stock market or to take shareholdings in companies’ capital. In 1854, freed from the guardianship of the State, it became the Comptoir d’Escompte de Mulhouse (CEM). However, after the French defeat of 1870, Alsace-Moselle became part of the German Empire and it found itself in a delicate situation: the head office was located in the German Empire, while most of the branches and capital raised were French.

CEM really took off with the appointment of a new director on 1 January 1887, Eugène Raval. He created and developed a network geared almost exclusively towards France. CEM recorded external growth, by buying local banks. The foundations of this policy were laid in 1889 with the opening of an agency in Troyes, and continued in 1894 with the opening of a banking house in Belfort. But it really took off in 1900 with Colmar, then in 1902, in Arcis-sur-Aube, Nogent-sur-Seine and Romilly-sur-Seine. Saint-Dié (1902), then Besançon (1904), Belfort (1906), Plombières and Remiremont (1907) and Dijon (1908) followed. The establishments in Le Havre (1907), Paris (1909) and Lyon (1910) gave the CEM network a new dimension, less strictly provincial: this led to the opening of branches in Marseille (1910), Rouen and Zurich (1911) and finally the absorption in 1912 of the Parisian bank Simon Lehmann & Cie, which specialised in the diamond business.

From its branches, CEM made its network denser, particularly around Troyes, and spread its web through a real “race to the counter”. In 1911-1913, it opened a new branch in Orléans, 16 additional agencies and 14 periodic offices. At the beginning of 1913, it operated 16 branches, 44 agencies and 34 periodic offices, i.e. 94 counters. Its network mainly grew in Vosges, Burgundy and the South of Champagne. Conversely, it abandoned Alsace to its regional competitors, as well as most of Lorraine and Champagne.

CEM became the financial arm of industrialists, whose influence is predominant in many rapidly growing areas: hosiery, flour mills, spinning mills, commodity trading, especially in the North and East of France. At the end of 1912, CEM’s capital reached 45 million francs, based on a network of 85 counters, made up of 15 branches, 41 agencies and 29 periodic offices.

In 1913, faced with growing political tension, the management chose to split the institution into two parts, and to regroup the counters located in France within an autonomous subsidiary: on the one hand, Comptoir d’Escompte de Mulhouse, the parent company which had only three branches in Alsace-Lorraine, and on the other, Banque Nationale de Crédit (BNC), a subsidiary grouping together activities in the French territory after the war.

CEM remained BNC’s parent company with 46% of its capital, but it was reduced to its two small branches in Colmar and Zurich, immediately supplemented by a new establishment in Guebwiller. It became Mülhauser Diskonto-Bank, chaired by Alfred Engel from Mulhouse and managed by Gaspard Arnold, deputy director before the war. Its board was completely renewed, but was still made up of local industrialists.  However, the war finally separated CEM from its subsidiary BNC: far from merging again after 1918, the two banks remained separate and even became competitors.

CEM gradually rebuilt a network of agencies: 13 in 1920, 24 in 1924, 57 in 1930. But apart from the takeover of the Mayer & Cie bank in Metz in 1923, it did not really seek to establish itself in Lorraine, nor did it fill certain gaps in Alsace (Munster, Molsheim, Wasselonne). Conversely, it opened a new agency in Paris in 1926. At the same time, BNC got ahead of CEM by establishing itself in Strasbourg and in the Lower Rhine region after 1918. Finally, an agreement was signed in 1921 which resulted in a sharing of areas of influence: BNC abandoned the former Alsace-Lorraine to CEM and gave it back six Lower Rhine agencies (Strasbourg, Bischwiller, Brumath, Haguenau, Saverne, Sélestat). But this agreement did not prevent CEM from selling its BNC shares in 1921-1922 to Comptoir Lyon-Alemand and to BFCI in order to be able to mobilise its resources.

In May 1930, CEM was absorbed by its subsidiary BNC to become its regional directorate for eastern France.  

Additional sources

Collection kept at the National Archives of the World of Work (ANMT)

120 AQ 1-32 Minutes of general meetings, council meetings, merger deeds, liquidation. 1848-1954


N. STOSKOPF, « La fondation du Comptoir national d’escompte de Paris, banque révolutionnaire (1848) », Histoire, Économie et Société, 3, septembre 2002, p. 105-121

N. STOSKOPF, Une réussite méconnue : le Comptoir d’Escompte de Mulhouse (1848-1930) [A little-known success: Comptoir d’Escompte de Mulhouse (1848-1930)], Annuaire historique de Mulhouse, tome 27, 2016, pp. 191-206