Social measures, social connections: a tradition that’s still alive and well at the bank

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Drama section of the BNCI social action association at Le Mans (France), 1951 - BNP Paribas Historical Archives

Drama section of the BNCI social action association at Le Mans (France), 1951 - BNP Paribas Historical Archives

Ever since their creation, banks have promoted a family spirit among their staff. Attachment to the company is made all the stronger by the various social measures on offer: financial aids, retirement and contingency funds, the organisation of leisure activities and team building events, etc. We take a look at the development of social action, from the 19th century to modern times.

The protective employer

In the absence of social welfare in the 19th century, banking establishments created contingency and assistance institutions to guarantee the wellbeing of their employees and encourage their loyalty. In 1894, the Comptoir National d’Escompte de Paris (CNEP), a forerunner of BNP Paribas and one of the pioneering banks, supported the creation of the Association Amicale de Secours des Employés (Employee Assistance Association), providing its members with medical and pharmaceutical treatments. The association also contributed towards care home and sanatorium fees, as well as the funerals of bank employees. This initiative was joined by a retirement and contingency fund founded in 1896, along with a women’s solidarity fund (1902), aimed at compensating for the loss of income caused by illness for female employees on daily contracts. At the CNEP, every member over the age of 60 with 30 years’ membership was entitled to a pension.

Articles of association of the CNEP’s Employee Assistance Association created in 1894 – BNP Paribas Historical Archives
Articles of association of the CNEP’s Employee Assistance Association created in 1894 – BNP Paribas Historical Archives

Creation of works councils: a turning point

From 1936, the management of social measures was developed at the instigation of the State. Collective agreements, which had been optional from 1919, became obligatory on 24 June 1936. A major turning point was the law of 16 May 1946, which saw the establishment of works councils. General measures replaced individual responses that had until that time been proposed by managements. And, through the works councils, members of staff took direct control of a large section of the company’s social measures. The creation of social security and standard retirement funds in 1945 tended to reduce the close bonds established between the bank and its employees.

Company canteen of the BNCI in the 1950’s, annex of the BNCI head office in Paris – BNP Paribas Historical Archives
Company canteen of the BNCI in the 1950’s, annex of the BNCI head office in Paris – BNP Paribas Historical Archives

The bank, a sociable place

Although the social measures carried out by banks were organised differently, the bond between employees remained strong throughout the year, punctuated by various events: the Catherinettes festival, May Day, Christmas gift giving event for children, holiday camps in various attractive locations, etc.

Christmas party at the BNCI in Calais (France), 1950 – BNP Paribas Historical Archives
Christmas party at the BNCI in Calais (France), 1950 – BNP Paribas Historical Archives

The Louveciennes domain, which belongs to the Banque Nationale pour le Commerce et l’Industrie (BNCI), located in the Paris region, is a good example of a site dedicated to employees: the property, which was purchased by the bank after the Second World War, was home to a stadium and mini-golf course and allowed employees to study tennis with French star player Henri Cochet.

The French tennis star player, Henri Cochet, giving a lesson to the BNCI’s employees at  Louveciennes (France) in 1960 – BNP Paribas Historical archives
The French tennis star player, Henri Cochet, giving a lesson to the BNCI’s employees at  Louveciennes (France) in 1960 – BNP Paribas Historical archives 

Cultural and social events were also organised there. In 1992 the site became a training centre. It is now the BNP Paribas campus, a place of work and relaxation, hosting over 1300 events each year.

Basketball match between the sporting associations of the BNCI and Philips company at Louveciennes, 1955 – BNP Paribas Historical Archives
Basketball match between the sporting associations of the BNCI and Philips company at Louveciennes, 1955 – BNP Paribas Historical Archives
Game schedule of the BNCI’s and Philips’ sporting associations – BNP Paribas Historical Archives
Game schedule of the BNCI’s and Philips’ sporting associations – BNP Paribas Historical Archives

The Group’s social action continues in the present day. The success of the holiday camps continued and the employees’ Amicale Sportive et Culturelle (Sporting and Cultural Association – ASC) was created in 1967 by merging the BNCI and CNEP’s sporting associations. The tennis tournament dedicated to bank employees (We are Tennis Cup) is just one of the projects that illustrate the vitality of the social bond within the bank.

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