this hinterland: Generale Bank & Co. in Germany; Banque Générale du Luxembourg in the Grand Duchy; and in France, Banque Parisienne de Crédit and Banque Régionale du Nord. But it was still absent from the Netherlands.

In January 1993, Générale de Banque opened a branch in Maastricht. Further branches were then established in Eindhoven, Utrecht, Breda and then Rotterdam. The priority clientele of this network were Belgian and Dutch companies which were active in the Benelux and German markets.

In August 1995, Générale de Banque pulled a master stroke, purchasing 94% of the shares of Crédit Lyonnais Bank Nederland (CLBN) for 1.2 billion guilders. This bank, which had entered the orbit of Crédit Lyonnais in 1983, was founded in 1925 under the name Slavenburg s Bank. It was then the fourth largest bank in the Netherlands with a 2.5%-3% market share. Its headquarters were right in the centre of Rotterdam. It employed 2,910 staff and the balance sheet totalled 20.7 billion guilders (380 billion Belgian francs). The acquisition covered the whole spectrum of activities, with the exception of some sensitive business: loans to the film industry and loans granted by former branches in the United Kingdom.

CLBN activities comprised three segments. The Retail business had three distribution channels: a network of 79 branches spread across the Netherlands, but with greater presence in the south, the Private Banking channel, and the Directbank channel, which covered independent agents selling retail products by telephone or correspondence. The Corporate business was based on twelve branches specialising in serving companies. Lastly, the Merchant Banking department serviced institutional clients and was active in the securities and asset management markets. CLBN also had a controlling interest in a number of specialised subsidiaries: Lentjes & Drossaerts N.V. (private banking), Oyens & Van Eeghen N.V. (securities brokerage), CL Lease Nederland (leasing) and Eurofactors b.v. (factoring).

The former Crédit Lyonnais subsidiary was renamed Generale Bank Nederland. In order to boost name recognition, as few people in the Netherlands had ever heard of it, a major advertising campaign was launched, comprising press announcements and radio and television spots. The new management wanted to restructure and grow the company. In 1998 staff numbers were reduced to 2,400. Some fifteen new branches were opened. New investment funds and Sicavs (unit trusts) were offered to clients. Return on capital rose by 8% in 1996 and by 10.7% in 1997.

In November 1996, HRH Princess Margriet of the Netherlands officially inaugurated the new head office of Generale Bank Nederland in Rotterdam: a tower 104 metres high designed by the famous architect Helmut Jahn and located in the middle of the Blaak financial centre.

180 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