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Foreign exchange: BNP Paribas flies out from under the radar

The sub-prime crisis has presented opportunities for institutions whose balance sheets have been left relatively intact to boost their trading operations, not least in foreign exchange. Several, such as Canada’s CIBC and Japan’s Nomura, have already started to build out their FX businesses, while the market is still waiting to see how existing heavyweights HSBC and JPMorgan will evolve. BNP Paribas is another player that market participants might be wise to watch.

The French bank can hardly be classified as a non-player; it is just that it has traditionally gone about its business in an understated manner. It has made steady progress up the Euromoney FX poll rankings. In 2005, it ranked 19th by reported turnover in the poll. This year, it had risen to 10th, not bad progress for a bank that has perhaps not focused on the poll as much as most of its rivals.

Business position

Senior figures at the bank have always emphasized that they have concentrated on their FX business’s profitability rather than a position in the rankings. However, that now appears to have changed and the bank is making no secret of its ambition to become a top-five player in the market.

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