During World War I, the BNP Paribas forerunners in France were mobilised, alongside the other financial institutions, to encourage ordinary citizens to channel their savings into the war effort. Of course many bank staff also sacrificed their lives in the service of their country. By the end of the conflict, the franc had lost a substantial part of its value, and this factor, together with the lines which were drawn across Europe, badly affected the position of Paris as an international financial centre. This meant that new sources of growth had to be found.
The Interbellum period: a time for gathering strength
In 1913, the Comptoir d Escompte de Mulhouse, which found itself in German territory until 1918, established a French subsidiary, the Banque Nationale de Crédit (BNC), which would expand and later, in 1930, take over its parent bank. This daring and dynamic institution built up a network by buying a number of local French banks. In 1922 it merged with an international merchant bank, Banque Française pour le Commerce et l Industrie. This enabled the bank to expand its corporate business but it became over-involved with some of its clients and went out of business during the Great Depression. The bank was re-founded in 1932 under the name of Banque Nationale pour le Commerce et l Industrie (BNCI). It was spearheaded by the highly-talented Alfred Pose, who was appointed General Manager at the age of just 33. The bank made its mark with its dynamic commercial approach and its innovative way of processing transactions with the establishment in 1934 of back offices specialised processing centres. Meanwhile Paribas, under its General Manager Horace Finaly, revived the bank s partnerships with industry, especially the oil industry, and strengthened its presence in Central Europe, where it represented French interests.
1945-1966: a period of modernisation
Following the sharp drop in business during World War II, when the banks networks abroad had been cut off from their Paris head offices, the Group s forerunner banks began to direct their efforts towards reconstruction. In 1945 banking legislation was passed
HEAD OFFICE OF THE COMPTOIR NATIONAL D ESCOMPTE DE PARIS,
A DIRECT FORERUNNER OF BNP PARIBAS, VIEW OF THE ATRIUM IN 1882
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