Starting in 1862, Comptoir d’escompte de Paris (CEP), BNP Paribas forerunners, strove to carve out a position in Hong Kong at a time when the British dominated the Asian market. Société générale de Banque (Fortis), Banque nationale pour le commerce et l’industrie (BNCI) and Paribas did the same in the first half of the 20th century and constantly increased their presence on the continent. Let’s look at the group’s expansion in Hong Kong, Asia pacific’s central economic market.
1920s to 1980: the BNCI, Paribas and Fortis acquire positions
Although the CNEP paved the way in Hong Kong, other forerunners or banks now part of the BNP Paribas Group also decided to develop their presence in the region.In 1958, the BNCI, a forerunner of BNP Paribas, opened a representation office in Hong Kong that became a branch in 1959.
Paribas also grew interested in China. It was one of the founders of Banque Franco-Chinoise (BFC) in 1922, although it was only in 1978 that the first branch was opened in Hong Kong. Paribas acquired a stake in the same year in Sun Hung Kai Securities Ltd, a Chinese investment firm, to facilitate equity stakes in real estate and shipping projects.
Banque Belge pour l’Etranger (BEE), a subsidiary of Société Générale de Banque (now BNP Paribas Fortis), opened its first Hong Kong branch in 1935. Although activity was modest for the first twenty years, business boomed after 1957 thanks to the massive economic upturn. Several branches were opened in the region: Mongkok in 1959, Kowloon in 1962 and Tsuen Wan in 1963.
The BEE was the leading foreign bank in the Hong Kong territory and enjoyed genuine respect in financial circles. Its role was vital in developing relations between Belgium and South-East Asia through small and medium-sized business clients. The bank established a financial subsidiary in 1972, Wa Pei Finance Co. Ltd., and continued to expand at a fast pace. From eight agencies in 1974, the bank grew to thirteen in 1979 with five hundred staff members.