After the Second World War, discussions towards the setting up of a Benelux economic union prompted SBB to strengthen its business relations with Amsterdam-based Twentsche Bank. This was a venerable banking house founded in 1841 by Benjamin Willem Blijdenstein Jr (1811-1866), a well-known figure from Enschede. It had steadily built up a network of subsidiaries in the Netherlands. In 1946, SBB and Twentsche Bank agreed to exchange crossholdings. Twentsche Bank took a stake of 5,000 partnership shares in SBB for 10 million Belgian francs, the shares being subscribed at 200% of their nominal value. This elevated SBB s capital to 60 million and the Managing Director of Twentsche Bank, Henri François van Leeuwen, was given a seat on the SBB Board of Directors. SBB likewise took a stake in Twentsche Bank and its President, Albert-Édouard Janssen, a former Belgian Finance Minister, duly joined the Board of the Dutch bank.

In the twenty years after the war SBB grew rapidly. By 1948, its capital had reached 100 mil- lion, partly by incorporating reserves, partly by issuing new shares. Step by step, the capital rose to 200 million in 1960. During this period, the bank focused hard on Corporate banking, seeking to forge relationships with major foreign firms prepared to entrust it with the man- agement of their interests in Belgium and also with families such as the Boël family.

The building of Europe and the Celibates Club (1957-1975)

In the 1960s, European banking had to face increasing competition from the major US banks. In order to respond to the competition many European banks moved to expand internationally through bank consortiums. By joining forces to invest abroad, banks could share the costs and minimise country risk.

Banque de la Société Générale de Belgique was among the founder members of one of the main banking consortiums at this time. In 1959, after talks had been opened the previous year, the Bank signed a collaboration agreement with Deutsche Bank and Amsterdamsche Bank. The three institutions agreed to approach each other immediately if ever they saw that certain types of banking deals were beyond their own capabilities transactions such as long-term loans, share issues, etc. They would also exchange information on clients. This arrangement was aptly named the Celibates Club , alluding to the commitment made by each member not to look elsewhere and it goes without saying not to marry any other girl.

Several years later, in 1962, Amsterdamsche Bank and BSGB planned to set up crossholdings and exchange Board members. This plan was dropped as it simply did not seem feasible to do the same with Deutsche Bank. The three banks decided nevertheless to initiate a new phase and build their overseas presence in tandem. Then in 1963 they linked up with the Midland Bank to set up the European Advisory Council (EAC), an international consultation group which had no legal status. The objective was to hold regular meetings on issues of mutual interest and to create a common basis for carrying out special transactions.

176 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