The 1990 results nevertheless still bore the scars of the past and in addition to the bad debt provisions already made, the Bank had to make a further exceptional provision of 24 million guilders. Insurance broking subsidiary Asparibas was then sold off in a satisfactory manner. The branch network was stabilised at 9 branches94, but the Amsterdam and Rotterdam branches together accounted for 57% of the profits.

In 1991, André Diss handed over the role of Executive Board Chairman to Benoît Monsaingeon, whose job it would henceforth be to continue to stabilise the Bank. The Bank s business situation required yet another capital increase, which resulted in the share in Paribas Nederland held by Paribas Belgique rising from 20% to 30%.

Looking back, Benoît Monsaingeon makes the following assessment of the difficult situation he found on arriving in Amsterdam: The various Dutch managers who had been running Paribas Nederland had never had any respect for their Paris shareholder. They had systematically shown themselves to be fiercely independent , and Paris management had virtually taken a leave them be, let them get on with it attitude. That was no problem at all when things were going well, but proved disastrous when business took a turn for the worse. So there was no real dialogue between the two sets of management; they just ignored each other. I think that the very difficult situation I encountered on arriving in Amsterdam in June 1991 was due to a lack of professionalism on the part of local management in the day-to-day running of the Bank, but it was no less due to the inability of the Paris stakeholder to exercise appropriate control over its subsidiary.

The commercial strategy, reformulated by the subsidiary s new boss, mainly focused on medium-sized companies with international operations. However, Benoît Monsaingeon experienced some difficulty in getting this strategy approved by Paris: Management in Paris did not really find this very appealing. They were only interested in large deals and did not in the least want us to focus on small and medium-sized clients ( ). They were forgetting two things: 1) we had a network of 10 branches located right across the country (a Redundancy Plan had been implemented the preceding year, following approval by the staff unions, covering the closure of around ten branches, and it was unthinkable to close any more branches even though some of them showed questionable profitability); and 2) given the industrial fabric of the country, a strategy of restricting ourselves to working with the few dozen multinationals based in the Netherlands did not make sense. We might have been able to do that with just a couple of dozen staff, but we had over 200 employees. So, with the support of our Belgian shareholders I managed to get my strategy approved and when I presented it to the staff, I noted with some satisfaction that they were glad to finally have a set of clear guidelines and accepted that their job was to follow our lead and work towards the goals that we were setting them.

94. Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Eindhoven, Den Haag, Enschede, Arnhem, Maastricht and Hulst

if the Works Council did not agree, the position of the Executive Board Chairman would be exceedingly difficult, as the Works Council had the power to block certain decisions and strategic directions and thus render labour relations at the Bank unworkable.

This experience served me well later on and I made sure I cultivated smooth relations with the Works Council, based on mutual trust, especially with its Chairman. Hans and I spoke to one another as equals, which he greatly appreciated, and this allowed us to establish a relationship of trust, knowing as I did that I would have to make some strategic decisions which might result in unpleasant consequences for the staff.

108 T H E H I S T O R Y O F B N P PA R I B A S I N T H E N E T H E R L A N D S