BNP Paribas in Switzerland: 140 Years of History
On 1 February 1872, the Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas was born from the merger of the Banque de Paris and the Banque de Crédit et de dépôt des Pays-Bas.
An international institution that was well ahead of its time, the Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas has had branches in Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland since its foundation. On the same day, the new establishment acquired the business of the Geneva branch of the Banque de crédit et de dépôt des Pays-Bas, which had its offices on the site of the former Dutch stronghold. The Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas thus became the first foreign bank to open a branch in Geneva.
Originally, the bank was, in essence, a syndicate of bankers who participated in financing both private businesses and public concerns, thus contributing to the development of the Geneva region and Switzerland as a whole. The membership of its first board of directors also demonstrates its thoroughly Genevan character: Arthur Chenevière, director of Maison A. Chenevière & Co, Louis Lullin, the former director of the Banque commerciale genevoise, James Odier, of Maison Lombard, Odier & Co and Comte Sautter de Beauregard, the former director of the Banque commerciale genevoise… These Genevan private bankers, whose reputation extended far beyond their national borders, were an integral part of the bank’s activities. Later, in 1968, the President of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce joined the bank’s board of directors.
A key role in the Swiss economy
The desire to play a role in the Swiss economy rapidly became a reality as a result of the bank successfully funding a number of initiatives: the building of the Gotthard and Simplon tunnels, the business activities of the Railway Company of Western Switzerland and the Railway Company of Martigny-Châtelard, and the National Exhibition of 1896, not forgetting the bank’s support for the launch of securities by the Swiss Confederation and the cantons. In 1872, the bank’s total balance sheet amounted to just over 7 million francs, with profits of 203,000 francs. At that time, there were only 5 employees.
On a local level, the bank regularly participated in the issue of public securities. A notable example was the conversion loan for the Republic of Canton and Geneva in 1880, for which it was the head of the underwriting syndicate. It also played an active role in a number of transactions, in collaboration with its partners in the Paribas group. Accordingly, it was involved in providing loans to the mining and transport sectors as well as to a range of industries (paper, tobacco and chemicals).
The Geneva branch of the Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas in 1930
Source : BNP Paribas Archives and History Department