Sarphati and the co-founders of the NCDB

Samuel Sarphati (1813-1866) was born into a Sephardic Jewish family that had arrived in Amsterdam from Portugal in the middle of the seventeenth century. After finishing his studies at the University of Leyden, he established himself as a physician in Amsterdam. His strong social sense combined with a great understanding of the economical realities of life, inspired him to actively promote public health and education. In the same spirit were founded the Maatschappij voor Meel- en Broodfabrieken (1856) to produce inexpensive quality bread; the Nationale Hypotheekbank (1861); the Nationale Bouwmaatschappij (1864) to construct affordable housing; the Amstel Hotel (1866), which is still today one of Amsterdam s top hotels and finally the NCDB (1863) to promote the development of new industry.

With his drive to stimulate industrial development, it may be assumed that Sarphati followed with great interest the new trend toward the development of institutions based on the Crédit mobilier model and the creation of new joint stock banks. He was often confronted with the lack of capital to finance his various projects, and obviously, he deemed the time to be ripe for an industrial development bank. Probably, thanks to his personal friendship with Louis-Raphaël Bischoffsheim, who had established himself as a banker in Amsterdam in 1820, Sarphati was well informed about the French Crédit mobilier. Furthermore, he was much impressed by Baron Haussmann s ambitious reshaping of Paris, which was made possible with the help of the crédit mobilier banks.

In 1857 he asked for royal approval for a new bank to be called the Maatschappij voor Nederlandsche Volksvlijt (the Industrial Development Bank of the Netherlands). The bank featured several aspects associated with a crédit mobilier bank. Knowing the sensitivity of the authorities, Sarphati tried to circumvent this by arguing that the new bank would not transact any speculative business, nor would it be engaged in the issue of banknotes or trading activities. Additionally, the bank would not invest in newly created companies. Their shares would immediately be placed in the market. Finally, the bank would only engage itself with companies that opened up their books. This was really quite new. However, the authorities considered apparently Sarphati s proposal as a disguised crédit mobilier bank. In the winter of 1862-1863 Sarphati made a renewed effort to get his bank for industrial finance off the ground. This time, he had the active support of Louis-Raphaël Bischoffsheim and A.C. Wertheim, the future general manager of the new bank.

Abraham Carel Wertheim (1832-1897) was born in a very modest family of German origin. His father was able to place his 13 year old son as junior clerk within his brother s bank. In 1834 Wertheim s uncle had associated himself with his brother in law, J.L. Gompertz, to start the bank Wertheim & Gompertz. Young Abraham did well and with the help of his uncle he began a traineeship with Julius Königswärter, bankers in Amsterdam. This bank was very successful in the international arbitrage of currencies and stocks. They, and for that matter, their colleagues Joseph Cahen, Salomon Raphaël and Louis-Raphaël Bischoffsheim, were the first to use the telegraph to conduct their arbitrage activities.

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