The material on this site is for financial institutions, professional investors and their professional advisers. It is for information only. Please read our Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy and Cookies before using this site. Please see our Subscription Terms and Conditions.

All material subject to strictly enforced copyright laws. © 2021 Euromoney, a part of the Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC.

France: Breaking the foreign taboo

French banks have given up their global ambitions with mere survival occupying their minds. The task of slimming down and restructuring is made more difficult by French aversions to job losses and hostile takeovers. But, like it or not, brash Anglo-American ideas about markets and management are being taken on board, reports Jonathan Ford.

It is a measure of the crisis gripping France's banking sector that two of the country's most respected financial institutions, Paribas and Banque Indosuez, have recently turned to US management consultancy McKinsey to advise them on restructuring their businesses. "This is breaking a taboo in a country as anti-American as France," jokes one investment banker. "They must have been pretty desperate to take such a step."

Both banks are struggling with low profitability and the costly legacy of over-ambitious expansion strategies in the 1980s. But their decision to tackle these problems with restructuring plans designed by American consultants, stressing such Anglo-Saxon virtues as focus, profitability and management accountability, is seen as a sign that the ill-health of the financial sector is finally forcing French bankers to rethink the way they do business.

Last year was another bad year for French banks and this one promises to be little better. Their profits continue to be low, provisions against bad loans remain high, rating agencies have been busy lowering their assessments across the sector and domestic competition is more intense than ever.

Hardly had the 1995 results season got under way at the end of February when confidence was dealt another blow as Paribas reported a Ffr4 billion ($800 million) loss for the year, far greater than most analysts had anticipated.

You have reached premium content. Please log in to continue reading.

Read beyond the headlines with Euromoney

For over 50 years, our readers have looked to Euromoney to stay informed about the issues that matter in the international banking and financial markets. Find out more about our different levels of access below.


Unlimited access to and

Expert comment, long reads and in-depth analysis interviews with senior finance professionals

Access the results of our market-leading annual surveys across core financial services

Access the results of our annual awards, including the world-renowned Awards for Excellence

Your print copy of Euromoney magazine delivered monthly

£73.75 per month

Billed Annually


Unlimited access to and, including our top stories, long reads, expert analysis, and the results of our annual surveys and awards

Sign up to any of our newsletters, curated by our editors


Already a user?

We use cookies to provide a personalized site experience.
By continuing to use & browse the site you agree to our Privacy Policy.
I agree