Crédit Agricole: Building resilience in retail
Being France’s biggest retail bank might not sound as appealing as it once was. But Crédit Agricole’s management is focused on the growing number of additional products it is plugging into the network.
French banks’ exposures to equities turned from a curse to a blessing in 2021. For Crédit Agricole, the only one of the big French banks to have wholeheartedly cut the business after 2008, that made rivals look comparatively strong.
Overall, especially compared with BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole’s larger exposure to retail rather than corporate and institutional banking has not been the benefit it was before the pandemic.
Crédit Agricole’s senior management, however, are not rushing back into businesses it exited for good reason.
In the first nine months of 2021, the bank’s operating income rose in all retail divisions, as well as in businesses partly linked to retail, such as asset management and insurance. Net income rose by 62% at group level and by 72% at the central listed entity, Crédit Agricole SA (CASA). While much of that was to do with lower cost of risk, the underlying result was up by 32% at group level and by 38% at CASA.
Stronger capital, thanks to these results, paved the way for CASA to boost its earnings per share in late 2021, fully unwinding the switch mechanism whereby the regional mutual banks in France had bolstered CASA’s solvency in the previous decade.