Gaston Défossé (1908-2001), a key player in 20th century financial progress

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Gaston Défossé - BNP Paribas Historical Archives

Gaston Défossé - BNP Paribas Historical Archives

Gaston Défossé played a key part in creating the new BNP in terms of technology, computerisation and accounting practices.

Having graduated from HEC Paris – one of the foremost business schools in France – in 1928, Gaston Défossé began his career in the cooperative sector. At the end of World War II, he joined the Banque Nationale pour le Commerce et l’Industrie (BNCI) as Deputy Manager of the Finance Department.

The technological and accounting merger of CNEP and BNCI

Gaston Défossé played an important role at the time of the merger between the Comptoir National d’Escompte de Paris (CNEP) and BNCI which created the Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP) in 1966. The merger marked a new era in technological modernisation, with computerisation and the launch of the ‘Carte bleue’ French debit card system in 1967. As a result of the merger it was necessary to completely revamp standards – especially accounting standards – and procedures, a task to which Gaston Défossé made a major contribution. His skills in this area were widely recognised, as indicated by his election as President of France’s Accountancy Academy in 1969.

On 16 February 1972, on the recommendation of Chairman Pierre Ledoux, Gaston Défossé was appointed Managing Director of BNP. He instigated a number of profound changes at the bank and worked intensively on all areas of finance. Although he did not play a direct role in international affairs, his work at the OECD on the development of international capital markets nevertheless assured him an international reputation.

A vocation for writing and teaching

In parallel with his banking career, Gaston Défossé also took on a number of teaching roles, including at his alma mater, HEC. He published a number of well-received books on economics, finance and management, including ‘La gestion financière des entreprises’ (‘The Financial Management of Companies’) and his book on the Stock Exchange in the ‘Que sais-je’ (‘What do you know?’) series. He was very much involved in the French University Press, and helped the publishing house to restructure.
From 1959 onwards, Gaston Défossé began to focus on the links between households’ growing standard of living, the increasing role of savings, and the expansion of the stock market and he correctly foresaw the rise of individual share-ownership.

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