At this time the bank was in a very difficult position. Jan Willem Termijtelen describes this period: Most of the people hired in previous years were not experienced bankers. The branch managers especially had been hired much more for their ability to get actively involved in their local community than for being real bankers. During this period the image of the bank was not good at all and I remember that it was quite difficult to recruit qualified candidates. In addition, we had to face many cases of internal fraud and other irregularities.

1988: New recovery measures

The year-end 1986 and 1987 results were poor and 1988 showed a sizeable deficit with 28 million guilders in losses. In June 1988, a new plan was therefore implemented. It called for the closure of a dozen branches out of the 18 which had remained open and the departure of around 200 staff. In the end nine branches were closed in October and November, and by the end of the year the number of staff had been reduced by 140.

1988 was also marked by the arrival of new management. Claude de Kémoularia, who had been international affairs advisor to the Paribas President between 1968 and 1982, subsequently serving as France s Ambassador to the Netherlands from 1982 to 1984, was appointed Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Paribas Nederland. André Diss succeeded Jan Willem Termijtelen as Chairman of the Executive Board. During the Paribas Nederland Board of Directors meeting on 9 December 1988, Diss reiterated that the objective set for the Bank was to gradually transform itself into a wholesale bank focusing on three main client categories institutional clients, medium-and-large companies, and high- earning or high-net-worth private individuals and specialising in those businesses where the Group already had a strong position: financing activities, wealth management and corporate banking services.

From recovery to sell-off (1988-1997)

At end-1989, the Bank had almost completed this widespread re-organisation. 25,000 accounts deemed to be of low profitability had been closed and in one year staff headcount fell from 539 to 407. However, the Alcredis and insurance businesses had still not been disposed of. The 1989 year-end results were narrowly back into the black, after the major losses posted in 1988.

In 1990, the Bank set up two investment banking entities, Paribas Deelnemingen and Paribas Advies, with a view to building up this side of the business in the Netherlands. The Paribas Group s investment banking department and Cobepa93 Brussels both played a decisive role in this move.

93. Cobepa (Compagnie Belge de Participations Paribas): an investment company belonging to the Paribas Group

Passing an exam without knowing it! Benoît Monsaingeon describes his first meeting with the Works Council.

My first contact with Amsterdam took place at the end of May 1991. I was there for two days, during which André Diss explained the difficulties he had encountered. On the morning of the second day he told me, without going into detail, that a meeting had been scheduled with staff representatives and then let me go into the meeting alone. I knew nothing of the labour relations environment in the Netherlands. André had not described this aspect of his job to me. So I found myself in the large committee room in front of Hans Smeehuijsen, Chairman of the Ondernemingsraad (Works Council), who worked as Head of Operations at the Rotterdam branch, and the other members of the Works Council a dozen staff representatives chosen on the basis of the trade union elections.

The meeting lasted around two hours, during which I was questioned on my education, professional experience, technical knowledge, my family, what I felt about the Netherlands as a country (which I was only just finding out about), etc. I was completely unaware of the objective of the exercise. It was only when I had to leave Amsterdam to go to Luxembourg several hours afterwards that I learned the purpose of the meeting.

Hans came to see me, smiling broadly, to tell me that the Works Council had approved my appointment as Paribas Nederland Executive Board Chairman!!! I had thus passed an exam without knowing I was taking one. The staff representatives had concluded that I had the necessary qualities to lead their members.

At that time I had not yet been formally appointed by the Board of Directors and I understood when talking later to André that it was necessary to have the approval of the Works Council in order to be able to do my job. The fact was that the shareholders could decide to appoint anyone they wanted to run the bank, but

107F R O M B A N Q U E D E PA R I S E T D E S PAY S - B A S T O PA R I B A S , 1 8 7 2-1 9 9 7