Banque française et italienne pour l’Amérique du sud (Sudaméris) was a financial institution which specialised in financing South American exports of agricultural and mining products and also imports of European-made equipment into the region.
A double-headed bank
Banque française et italienne pour l’Amérique du sud was established in 1910 jointly by Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas and Banca Commerciale Italiana (Comit). In the 1930s, the bank had 36 branches or offices in Argentina, Chile, Panama, Uruguay, Peru and the United States and also worked through subsidiaries and affiliates in Brazil, Colombia and Paraguay.
While 65% of the bank’s stock was held by Comit and its Chief Executive was Italian, the head office was located in Paris and its President was a Frenchman. This arrangement became problematic when the Second World War broke out and France and Italy found themselves at war with each other. The Italian assets of Sudaméris were frozen by the French government. An agreement was subsequently reached, which saw Banque de l’Indochine, a French partner, take a stake in Banque française et italienne pour l’Amérique du sud.
A banking network in Latin America
During the 1976-1977 period Banque française et italienne pour l’Amérique du sud ceased to be an exclusively Franco-Italian institution, a move marked by an official change in its name to Banque Sudaméris, the word ‘sudaméris’ having from the very beginning been the bank’s telegraphic designation.
In 1991, Sudaméris became a holding company with a banking network in Latin America. In January of the same year it sold its Paris headquarters to Comit, which then became Comit France.
In 1994, Banque Paribas and the other Sudaméris shareholder banks – Indosuez, Union des Banques Suisses and Dresdner Bank – sold their stakes to Comit. In 2001 Sudaméris joined the Banca Intesa Group and then in 2003 was acquired by ABN-AMRO.
This article was written in collaboration with the BNP Paribas Historical Association