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OPINION

Did Natixis learn nothing from 2008?

Natixis’ mistakes in equity derivatives and commodities this year repeat a pattern of outsized wholesale-banking losses. In the future, as in asset management, it should focus more on the underlying advantages of parent group BPCE’s retail network.

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As Natixis finetunes cuts to its equity derivatives business ahead of third-quarter results in early November, questions must be asked about why that unit had grown so large in the first place – and whether the group needs further structural change to stop it happening again.

Frustratingly, it was precisely because of Natixis’ outsized losses in the last financial crisis that it cut its wholesale exposures even more stringently than other French banks in the early part of the last decade. By the mid-2010s, however, then chief executive Laurent Mignon – now CEO of parent group BPCE – was already telling Euromoney how the corporate and investment bank was a “growth story” once again.

No prizes for guessing what happened next. It’s not just equity derivatives – in which BNP Paribas and Societe Generale have suffered similar losses as a result of this year’s dividend cancellations. Mignon and his recently ousted successor at Natixis, Francois Riahi, also oversaw expansion outside Europe in commodities and aviation finance. That might have caused problems even without Covid-19.

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Laurent Mignon, BPCE

This time, Natixis looks particularly exposed, because markets losses have so far been so much lower at Crédit Agricole SA (CASA), its closest peer.