Compagnie Bancaire, the embodiment of innovation

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BNP Paribas Historical Archives

Founded in 1959, the Compagnie Bancaire was an exceptionally innovative financial institution, which united under its umbrella a group of companies providing various specialist financial services.

The story of the Compagnie Bancaire begins with the Union Financière d’Entreprises Françaises et Etrangères (UFEFE) set up by Jacques de Fouchier in 1946. The mission of UFEFE was to offer companies a service that they could not obtain from other financial institutions. UFEFE extended short-term credit to companies importing into France raw materials for the use of manufacturers exporting finished goods. The launch of the Marshall Plan in 1949 undermined UFEFE’s unique status and in 1950 it merged with the Banque Française d’Acceptation to form the Union Française de Banques (UFB), which specialised in financing heavy equipment.
UFB presided over the creation of four new companies:

– Union de Crédit pour le Bâtiment (UCB) in 1951, specialising in finance for housing construction
– Crédit à l’Equipement des Ménages (CETELEM) in 1953, financing purchases of household electrical appliances and providing other consumer credit
– Compagnie Française d’Epargne et de Crédit (CFEC) in 1954, to provide long-term mortgage loans.
– The Société d’Etudes et de Gestion des Centres d’Equipement (SEGECE) in 1956, to carry out research into commercial investments and credit distribution channels

Branch accommodating the subsidiary companies under the Compagnie Bancaire umbrella, Perpignan - BNP Paribas Historical Archives
Branch accommodating the subsidiary companies under the Compagnie Bancaire umbrella, Perpignan – BNP Paribas Historical Archives

An umbrella for the new companies

In 1959, rapid business growth prompted the establishment of the Compagnie Bancaire, a Group holding company which exercises centralised control over the four operating subsidiaries with regard to financing, steering and oversight. Jacques de Fouchier was elected as the first Chairman of Compagnie Bancaire, which was then in 1961 floated on the Stock Exchange. The Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas, the main shareholder, played a major role from 1966 onwards, following changes to the banking regulations during 1965-1967.

Compagnie Bancaire then expanded across Europe. The bank took over Compagnie pour le Financement de l’Industrie, du Commerce et de l’Agriculture (COFICA), a loan provider for the purchase of cars, trucks and tractors. In 1973 it set up CARDIF, a company providing with-profits life insurance, then the branch-less bank Cortal, followed by the company vehicle leasing specialist Arval Service Lease. In 1985 Cetelem set up Findomestic in Italy.

In 1997, Banque Paribas and Compagnie Bancaire decided to merge. Banque Paribas made a takeover bid for Compagnie Bancaire and in 1998 a new financial institution was formed under the name Paribas.

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