The career of Louis-Raphaël Bischoffsheim is a good illustration of the way the banking system in Europe changed towards the end of the 19th century. Networks of banking families formed alliances to set up major financial institutions.
A powerful family network across the whole of Europe
Born in 1800 in Mainz, Louis-Raphaël Bischoffsheim moved to Frankfurt-am-Main when his father died in 1814. There he was apprenticed to Hayum Salomon Goldschmidt, a banker friend of his father’s whose daughter Amalia Goldschmidt he subsequently married in 1821. The rest of his family followed his example and forged matrimonial links and trade alliances among the Jewish banking community on the Rhine: through his brothers, sister and children, Louis-Raphaël was connected to the Goldsmiths, Bambergers, Erlangers and the Cahen d’Anvers and Hirsch families, all of them bankers in Paris, London, Brussels, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Frankfurt and elsewhere.
Founder of Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas and Société Générale
Having rapidly acquired the skills of his profession, Bischoffsheim founded his own bank in Amsterdam in 1820. With the help of his brother Jonathan and his Goldsmith brothers-in-law and nephews, he established branches in Antwerp (1827), Brussels, London (1840) and Paris (1848).
It was during this period that he made the acquaintance of Alphonse Pinard and Édouard Hentsch, who together ran the Comptoir d’escompte de Paris. In 1863, Bischoffsheim created, together with various Dutch associates, the Nederlandsche Credit-en-Deposito Bank (Dutch Credit and Deposit Bank), which then took over his Amsterdam, Antwerp and Brussels branches, while the Paris branch, with Bischoffsheim, Pinard and Hentsch as shareholders, grew very rapidly under the management of a Bamberger relative.
During this time, Louis-Raphaël Bischoffsheim also backed a venture by Pinard, Hentsch and Talabot to create a large deposit-taking bank in Paris, thus becoming one of the founders of Société Générale.
In January 1872, he played a major role in the founding of Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas (later Paribas), which was formed by merging the Nederlandsche Credit-en-Deposito Bank with the Banque de Paris run by Henri Cernuschi.
Philanthropic support for vocational education
Louis-Raphaël Bischoffsheim undertook numerous philanthropic initiatives, with particular emphasis on fostering vocational training. He provided funds to assist vocational schools, supported foundations that financed scientific and medical studies in Paris and Amsterdam, and helped to set up a school with sewing-room attached for young girls in the Bastille district of Paris. He became especially well-known for his idea of starting up a theatre in 1866 in the basement of the Athénée mansion which he had built, the profits going to the vocational schools.
For more information: N. Stospkopf, Les patrons du Second Empire, Banquiers et financiers parisiens, (The Patrons of the Second Empire: Parisian Bankers and Financiers) published by Editions Picard, 2002.