BNP Paribas Group has had a strong presence in Asia Pacific since Comptoir National d’Escompte de Paris (CNEP) was established in the 19th century. Singapore emerged as a strategic economic market in the 1960s and has continued to be so ever since. This is a potential that BNP and Paribas quickly realised.
Birth of a major financial hub
BNP Group had been working on expansion in Asia Pacific since the 19th century. The CNEP opened a branch in Shanghai in 1860, whereas Singapore emerged as a top-tier financial hub at the end of the 1960s. After gaining independence in 1965, the city state has enjoyed remarkably fast development. Strong demographics, combined with sustained economic growth, launched Singapore as a new financial centre. With rising industrial investment, riches were generated on site. The future of Singapore looked as promising as that of Hong Kong by the start of the 1970s.
BNP: an Asian strategy
BNP already had a major network in Asia and along the Pacific rim in 1968: two branches in Saigon, six in Hong Kong, two in Noumea, five in India and five in Australia. The rapid emergence of Singapore made it an ideal foothold for southeast Asia. BNP accordingly opened a representative office in 1968 to cover Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Three years later, the French group was authorised by the monetary authorities of Republic of Singapore to open an agency. BNP was now allowed to offer a comprehensive range operations in the city state.
At the same time, the group expanded its presence elsewhere in the region with representative offices opened in Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta (1974) and then Bangkok (1978). The aim was to field a presence in each member country of ASEAN, the Association of South-East Asian Nations. In July 1979, the BNP network was bolstered by the establishment of an investment bank, BNP South East Asia Ltd., set up in partnership with the Post Office Savings Bank, one of the most powerful banking institutions in Singapore.
Economic growth continued in Singapore in the 1980s, while BNP South East Asia Ltd. continued to widen its operations including investment banking, syndicated loans, IPOs, real estate development, etc. In 1989, a currency options satellite was opened in Singapore, enabling BNP to acquire a significant share of the Asian options market. Paribas, which was naturally focused on international business, was also present in Singapore, where the bank’s regional administration and logistics were located. Singapore has been a gateway to southeast Asia for many French companies. BNP acquired a majority holding in PrimeEast Asia, a brokerage house in 1996, thereby expanding its equities hub and corporate financing in the region. BNP Paribas group expanded all throughout the 2000s in the region. In 2007, BNP Paribas Securities Services, the subsidiary of the bank’s securities business, announced that it was opening an office in Singapore.