the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg100. There were about 600 account holders, 150 securities depositors and 150 strong boxes, plus a portfolio of loans out to companies, which were all transferred to BSGB. Meanwhile the staff was transferred into BSGB s Foreign department, which set up a unit to work with clients who had an interest in markets in the Netherlands and its colonies.

Some years later, in 1954, BSGB took a stake in Handel Maatschappij H. Albert de Bary & Co. This trading company was founded in 1919 in Amsterdam to continue running the business of an Antwerp institution which had closed down in 1914. Deutsche Bank became the major shareholder during the inter-war period, which led to the authorities to order its sequestration in 1945. They were however keen to promote the Amsterdam market as a financial and commercial centre, and they opened negotiations to cede control of the firm to a group of foreign financiers. At the time Banque de Bary specialised in forex and arbitrage and in the financing of international commodities trading, especially wool. In 1954, BSGB partnered with four other European banks Deutsche Bank, Banque de l Indochine, Crédit Suisse and Banque Müller & Co. to take over Handel Maatschappij H. Albert de Bary. The Belgian bank s share amounted to 19.2%, worth 2.88 million guilders out of a total capital of 15 million.

BSGB s stake in Handel Maatschappij H. Albert de Bary & Co., in addition to giving it a position on the Dutch market, was seen as a means of developing cooperation with an international group of banks. This was one of the first signs that the bank intended to structure its international development on the basis of agreements with other European banks for cooperation through consortiums. It is interesting to note here that Banque Müller s stake in the Bary deal was later purchased by Amsterdamsche Bank. In this deal we thus see three of the four founder banks of the European Advisory Council, of which more later.

Alongside these first forays by BSGB into the Netherlands, another forerunner of BNP Paribas Fortis, Société Belge de Banque (SBB), embarked on an initiative which deserves mention.

But first, a short biographical note on Société Belge de Banque. Its roots go back to the establishment in March 1901 of Banque Générale Belge, headquartered at that time in Namur. It then experienced major problems during the economic and financial crisis of the 1920s. The diamond industry, where it had sizeable interests, suffered a major slowdown as a result of the global crisis. In 1932 and again in 1935, Banque Générale Belge was completely restructured under the name Société Belge de Banque. At the time it had ties with the Solvay chemicals group and it saw itself as a bank specialising in industrial corporate finance.

100. BSGB Archives, n°23, note dated 30 May 1947.

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