The Banque nationale de Paris (1966-2000)

Saran site, 2009 – BNP Paribas Historical Archives


  • Date range: 1958-2013
  • Physical description: Paper archives, posters, photos, prints, videos
  • Volume: 3,422 in UA
  • Physical location: Dinan


The Saran archive site (45) was created and opened in 1970-1971, with an archive storage capacity of 380 kml. In 2004, all the national archives were centralised as a result of the centralisation of all group administrative functions.

An historical archives department was created in 1998, in response to the Mattéoli mission. But from 2005 a policy was pursued of outsourcing archives and withdrawing archivists: in 2009-2010, the archives were destroyed. In 2011, with the return of the archivists, the Saran archives were transferred to Combs-la-Ville, until 2019. Since 2020, they have been located in Dinan (Côtes d´Armor).

Conditions for access and use

  • Access condition: communicable with authorisation
  • Language: French
  • Material characteristics and technical constraints:

In addition to the paper archives, we keep: posters, which make up the AF series, divided into four sub-series according to the poster size; a collection of photos, from several collections that have been reorganised. The photographs are marked “Fi” and reorganised in several sub-series within the Fi series; a library, made up of monographs and serial publications; a collection of periodicals; audiovisual documents which make up the V series. This is subdivided into two sub-series depending on whether the original medium is digital or analogue; objects, classified under the OB series.


On 4 May 1966, following the decision of Finance Minister Michel Debré, Banque Nationale pour le Commerce et l’Industrie (BNCI) and Comptoir National d’Escompte de Paris (CNEP) merged to create Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP). This merger took place against a backdrop of banking reforms and concentration, with a view to “strengthening the structure of the large banks to increase their activities in the field of credit at home and abroad”[1]. The objective was to create a bank serving the national economy, stimulating competition with Crédit Lyonnais and Société Générale.

In the footsteps of BNCI, BNP very quickly put in place a highly structured and centralised general management. Power was shared by Henry Bizot, chairman of CNEP and appointed chairman of the new institution, and Pierre Ledoux, CEO of BNCI, who became CEO of BNP. The new head office was located at BNCI headquarters, 16 boulevard des Italiens.

This merger allowed the creation of a relatively extensive and complementary network, both nationally and internationally, CNEP being well established in Paris and BNCI in the provinces, with few overlaps in the international network. The unification of the networks was completed at the end of 1967 abroad, and at the end of 1968 in France. The merger between the two entities was officially completed in 1969: the speed at which the merger was implemented would contribute to the project’s success.

It enshrined the banking reform supported by Michel Debré: it was about “marking the beginning of an era which will make it possible, through competition that will have to be voluntarily ordered by those in charge, to ensure the more active collection of credit for businesses and individuals”. [2] Against a backdrop of expanding household banking, BNP registered growth among the general public, who were underbanked at the time. Then, only 18% of French people were banked and had a checking account.[3]

With a commercial policy aimed at conquering new customers, with the ambition of being a young and modern “all-purpose bank”, BNP launched several advertising campaigns aimed at women (1967) and organised a major communication aimed at young people (1972). Targeting women and young people was part of the bank’s new strategy, namely to establish a new and lasting relationship with customers, by fostering relationships with customers for whom the bank still lacked appeal. This new relationship with customers would also be fuelled by having them sit in its agencies, a real revolution compared to their traditional position of standing, facing the counter.

It was also the time when the famous advertising campaign “I’m interested in your money” (1973) was launched, which broke with the usual codes of banking policy. BNP sought to make the bank a “consumer product”, like any mass-market product, building on the general growth trend in banking (multiplication of banking products and distribution of cheque books). In 1967, BNP was one of the five French banks to launch Carte Bleue (with Crédit Lyonnais, Société Générale, Crédit Commercial de France and Crédit Industriel et Commercial).

Customer numbers followed this move: in 1970, BNP managed 1,695,000 individual checking accounts, and 3,269,000 in 1981. The bank’s network was to expand as a result: the total number of counters rose from 1,939 in 1971 to 2,688 in 1981. Also in 1973, the bank signed a partnership agreement with the Roland Garros tennis tournament, which has been constantly renewed since.

The complementarity of BNP’s two original parent structures also provided it with its initial business base of companies in France, the large companies coming from CNEP, in addition to the many SMEs inherited from BNCI. Building on this, in June 1969, BNP created Banque pour l’Expansion Industrielle – Banexi, from Banque Auxiliaire pour le Commerce et l’Industrie, which specialised in foreign equity investments within BNCI. A fully-owned subsidiary of BNP, this investment bank allowed investors to acquire shareholdings in often unlisted family businesses. The Debré decree of December 1966 made it possible to merge the deposit bank and the investment bank[4].

The bank also registered international growth, the foundations of which had already been well established by its parent companies.  This heritage would be put to good use, with a proactive expansion strategy aimed at “asserting a global dimension”[5].

BNP initially organised the existing network in 1966, and this was strongly unbalanced in favour of an African presence born out of France’s colonial empire: it intensified the transformation of its African branches into subsidiaries, the Banques Internationales pour le Commerce et l’Industrie (International Banks for Commerce and Industry – BICI), extensively internationalising them. BNP rolled out its international network to the Far East and the Pacific. In 1975-1980, it favoured Asia, with Hong Kong, where it initiated and strengthened its presence from 1975, becoming the hub of South-East Asia (opening of agencies in Singapore and Tokyo in 1968, Jakarta in 1975, Kuala Lumpur and Manila in 1975, Seoul in 1976, Bangkok in 1977, presence in Beijing from 1976, then Shanghai and Canton in China).

On the other side of the Pacific, BNP Canada expanded its agency network from 1974-1980, a network inherited from BNCI. In 1979, it acquired Bank of the West on the west coast of the United States, after the creation of the French Bank of California in 1972. Its American expansion extended to Latin America, Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Brazil and Colombia in the years 1975-1980.

In 1967, faced with the rise of US banks in the face of the difficulties in the shaping of Europe, BNP contributed to the creation of Société Financière Européenne (SFE), a consortium bank that brought together nine European banks. Its purpose was to facilitate groupings and mergers of companies established in Europe, becoming the first large international finance company.

After the first oil shock of 1973, the bank created Banque Arabe et Internationale d’Investissement (BAII) and then opened up in Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Amman (1977-1979). In addition, in order to support the efforts of French exporters in Eastern countries, representative offices were opened in Moscow in 1974, in Poland in 1979, and in Budapest and Belgrade in 1980. Finally, in view of the launch of the European Single Market in 1993, an alliance with Dresdner Bank, Germany’s second largest bank, was signed in 1990; then another was signed with UAP (Union des Assurances de Paris), number 1 in insurance in France, which would give rise to the first French-style bancassurance business, via a 50/50 partnership with the creation of an ad hoc brokerage company, Natio Assurances.  While part of the capital had been opened to employees in 1973 under the Profit-Sharing Act, the majority resulting from the 1981 presidential elections led to the complete renationalisation of the bank in 1982.

Succeeding René Thomas, Michel Pébereau was appointed head of BNP in July 1993 to prepare for the bank’s privatisation, enshrined in the law of 19 July 1993, which came into effect in October. He undertook to transform the Group to enable it to become a leading player in the large European market.

Privatisation gave BNP its independence and began a new era: Michel Pébereau implemented a strategy of refocusing on its historical businesses, local banking in France and wealth management internationally:

  • Local banking in France, serving individuals and small and medium-sized businesses;
  • Corporate banking on a global scale, serving companies, financial institutions and private clients wishing to ensure international management of their assets.

Innovation and the internet revolution were another facet of this new era: already advanced in telematics, in April 1997, BNP launched an online home banking service for individuals. At the end of the 1990s, BNP returned to offbeat advertising, which emphasised the bank’s continuous innovation. This communication drew in particular on the cinema, whose conventions it adopted from 1995.

From 1993, the opening of the European banking market allowed banks to plan consolidation strategies at national and European level. Against this backdrop, a major stock market battle would be played out, and would ultimately see the creation of the BNP Paribas banking group.

Several merger attempts were made in the 1990s with a view to forming a competitive European banking group. But without success. In March 1999, in response to Société Générale’s offer for Paribas (1 Feb.), BNP drafted a double unsolicited public offer for Société Générale and Paribas: the proposal aimed to create, through the merger of BNP, Société Générale and Paribas, “a European-scale banking with a solid national base”, and was known as SBP. Against a backdrop of strong banking concentration in Europe, BNP did its utmost not to be marginalised within a national environment undergoing a process of concentration. The merger of the three banks would create the biggest European bank in the eurozone by total equity and market capitalisation.

Following an intense stock market, media and institutional battle between BNP and Société Générale in 1999, BNP took control of Paribas and a large controlling minority in Société Générale. With the Governor of the Banque de France not having approved the shareholding in Société Générale, the BNP general meeting ratified the creation of the new BNP Paribas group on 23 May 2000. BNP took control of Paribas and a blocking minority.

[1] L. QUENOUELLE-CORRE, La direction du Trésor 1947-1967 : L’Etat-banquier et la croissance [The Treasury Department 1947-1967: The banker state and growth], Institute of Public Management for the Economic and Financial History of France, 2000

[2] L. QUENOUELLE-CORRE, Op. cit., see “Le précipité de 1966-1967” [“The precipitate of 1966-1967”].

[3] G. GLOUKOVIEZOFF, J. LAZARUS, “La relation de service dans la banque”, La relation bancaire avec la clientèle des particuliers, [“The service relationship in the bank”, The banking relationship with private customers”], Collection of reports, Research mission, October 2005.

[4] L. QUENOUELLE-CORRE, Op. cit.,

[5] P. LEDOUX, Op. cit. “Moderniser les structures de l’organisation bancaire” [“Modernising the structures of the banking organisation”];

Additional sources


P. LEDOUX, Journal imprévu d’un banquier. Une aventure, un métier 1943-2000 [Unexpected diary of a banker. An adventure, a profession 1943-2000], 2001

F. TORRES, Banquiers d’avenir. Des comptoirs d’escompte à la naissance de BNP Paribas [Bankers of the future. From comptoirs d’escompte to the birth of BNP Paribas], 2000

F. TORRES (dir.), Histoire de la BNP, 1992, Public Histoire, 135 p.

G. de LASSUS, The history of BNP Paribas in the Gulf countries (1973-2014), 2014, 232 p.

G. De LASSUS, BG BNP Paribas: 100 years of banking in Poland, 2016, 251 p.