BNP Paribas Fortis and the Netherlands

Founding of the Bank by William I of the Netherlands (1822-1830)

BNP Paribas Fortis is a direct descendent of the bank founded in 1822 by William I of the Netherlands: Algemeene Nederlandsche Maatschappij ter Begunstiging van de Volksvlijt, (General Company of the Netherlands for the Promotion of National Industry). The origins of the bank can be traced to the period when the provinces which today make up Belgium were still part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

In 1815, on the initiative of the European powers that had finally won victory over Napoleon, these Belgian provinces were reunited with the Netherlands. Prince William of Orange was offered the crown of a new kingdom intended to re-amalgamate all the Belgian and Dutch provinces. He immediately showed himself to be an enlightened despot rather than a constitutional monarch. Although his authority was in principle curtailed by a constitution known as the Basic Law, he nevertheless believed in the virtues of a strong centralised state where the sovereign played a decisive role.

Accordingly, William I wanted to take a role, not only in the political and administrative spheres, but also in economic affairs. At the time the Netherlands economy was in a sorry state; its finances were in a pitiful condition. The king began by introducing a single currency, the florin. In 1814 he founded the Nederlandsche Bank with its headquarters in Amsterdam, and granted it the right to issue banknotes. This bank was also entrusted with the task of developing commercial and documentary credit and in addition served as State treasurer: all government receipts and outgoings went through the bank.

The Nederlandsche Bank took some time to get moving. Its sphere of activity was restricted to the Amsterdam region and the banknotes it issued were not in circulation in the south

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