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BANKING

Brassac restores Crédit Agricole's Spirit of Conquest

After a bloodless revolution at the eurozone’s second biggest banking group, Philippe Brassac says he has engineered a return to Crédit Agricole’s origins, rooted in French regional banking. Now he is aiming to revive the group’s appetite for foreign expansion. Can Brassac prevent a repetition of his predecessors’ international errors and avoid falling victim to another coup?

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Illustration: Vince McIndoe



Philippe Brassac is in an expansive mood – and no wonder. 

The group he leads, Crédit Agricole, has just posted its best annual result for a decade, with net income at €6.5 billion, up 35% on the previous year. 

The market has widely welcomed the recent completion of the most important foreign acquisition by a European bank since the 2008 crisis: the €3.5 billion takeover of UniCredit’s asset management arm, Pioneer, by the French lender’s remarkably successful equivalent, Amundi. 

More fundamentally, according to Brassac, it has fixed the imbalances that have consistently plagued the world’s biggest client-owned bank by assets, ever since the problematic IPO in 2001 of its central cooperative body and product factory, Crédit Agricole SA (CASA).

Brassac speaks in steady English about this sprawling mutual group, where he has spent his whole career – that is 40 years since his entry into the local Crédit Agricole bank of his southern French hometown, Nîmes.