France - Country Commercial Guide
Banking Systems

Includes special features of this country’s banking system and rules/laws that might impact U.S. business.

Last published date: 2019-10-13

The French banking system underwent a fundamental structural reform in 1984, which removed most of the distinction between commercial banks and merchant banks and grouped most financial institutions under a single supervisory system. The largest commercial banks, such as Crédit Agricole - LCL, BPCE (Banque Populaire Caisse d’Épargne), Société Générale, BNP Paribas, Natixis, Crédit Mutuel - CIC group, and HSBC France rank among the largest banks in the world. These commercial banks offer all classic financing instruments, including short, medium, and long-term loans, short-and medium-term credit facilities, and secured and non-secured overdrafts.  Commercial banks also assist in public offerings of shares and corporate debt, as well as mergers, acquisitions and takeovers.  Banks offer hedging against interest rate and currency fluctuations. France also has 132 foreign banks; some with sizeable branch networks.

The Bank of France (Banque de France) is a member of the European Central Bank (ECB) system and the Banque de France’s governor sits on the executive board of the European Central Bank. The Banque de France introduced Euro-denominated banknotes and coins in January 2002, completing the transition to the Euro and eliminating the French franc.
The Banque de France participates in the regulation and supervision of the French banking and financial system.  Its governor is also president of the Prudential Control Authority, which grants or withdraws banking licenses, ensures that banks adhere to banking regulations, and supervises insurance companies.  In July 2013, France passed a reform of the banking law which separates customer services from the proprietary trading activities in order to reduce the risks incurred by the depositors. The Prudential Control Authority was renamed the Prudential Supervisory and Resolution Authority as it is supervising the preparation and implementation of measures to prevent and resolve bank crises.

The French government has sold the majority of its equity stakes in major banks and insurance companies.  However, it retains ownership of the “Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations” and minority stakes in several major financial institutions. The French postal service, La Poste, an independent public entity, holds 10% of the French financial services market.  La Poste has created its own bank, “La Banque Postale”, which acquired the status of a regular bank in 2006.
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