which separated merchant and investment banks from deposit-taking banks and the government nationalised the four largest financial institutions to help the country get back on its feet economically. CNEP and BNCI were nationalised, and opted for deposit bank status. CNEP continued along a cautious path while BNCI, which since the war had been building up a broad international network, was still proving to be both competitive and innovative, inter alia becoming in 1954 the first bank to advertise on the radio. New products such as personal loans (1959), and SICAV open-end investment fund (1963) were offered to customers.

Paribas chose to take merchant bank status and was not among the four nationalised banks. It achieved fame after the war through its financing of major international projects that supported French industrial exports, such as the Paz del Rio steelworks (1950) in Colombia. Under the management of Jean Reyre, Paribas reasserted its ambitions on the international, particularly European, scene. The bank forged new alliances, was instrumental in the introduction of buyer credits for trade finance in 1965 and also played a pioneering role in the Eurocurrency market which was emerging at that time.

1966: a key year in the development of the Group

As part of a wide-ranging plan to kickstart the French economy, the Minister of Economy and Finance, Michel Debré, wanted to stimulate competition between banks and create a financial strike force . He softened the distinction between merchant/investment banks and deposit-taking banks and eased restrictions on the opening of new branches. In 1966 he merged BNCI with CNEP to form Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP), which became the leading bank in France. The cordial relations between the two General Managers, Henry Bizot and Pierre Ledoux, helped to ensure a successful merger of the two banks which, although highly complementary, had widely differing company cultures.

BNP was now up and running and in pole position to serve the needs both of companies in requiring finance and of people setting up homes. The bank helped to open up banking services to the mass market by opening hundreds of local branches. It was one of the first banks to offer the Carte Bleue payment card, and also expanded its international network. Its advertising campaign Votre argent m intéresse ( I m interested in your money ), launched in 1973 in the daring spirit of BNCI, broke the taboo of talking about money and still remains today the best-remembered slogan of all bank advertising in France. That was also the year when the Group s sponsorship of the French Open tennis tournament was launched. This relationship proved to have a bright future and has expanded through the years far beyond the Roland Garros stadium to become a partnership with all forms of tennis all over the world.

1966 also saw ties between Paribas and Compagnie bancaire strengthened. Formed in 1959, the Compagnie comprised of several specialised finance companies, which had been set up from 1946 onwards by Jacques de Fouchier, a visionary and charismatic entrepreneur.

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