Emile Ullmann, the banker who was too German

1854 >


  • Historical Events
  • Men & Women

A brilliant banker with the Comptoir National d’Escompte de Paris, Emile Ullmann was forced to resign from the bank in 1916 because of his German origins.

  • An exemplary career…

Emile Ullmann was born in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany on 26 February 1854. In 1873 he obtained employment at the Banque Belge du Commerce et de l’Industrie, before moving to the Brussels branch of Comptoir d’Escompte de Paris as an auxiliary. In 1875 he requested and was granted a move to Paris where he became an arbitrager, the equivalent of a dealer in today’s financial world. His knowledge of financial markets led to his appointment as Head of the Foreign Department in 1882. He became Secretary-General of the bank in 1890, and then in 1902 was promoted to Manager in charge of the Comptoir’s ‘financial affairs and general operations’. Alongside Paul Boyer, who was responsible for running the Paris headquarters, he assisted the General Manager Alexis Rostand, who had got the Comptoir back on its feet from 1889 onwards. Among other duties, Ullmann took part in negotiations regarding issuance of foreign governments’ sovereign bonds and travelled widely throughout Europe.

He finally received recognition for his efforts in 1905 when he was elected a member of the bank’s Board of Directors, while retaining his salaried post as Manager. Rostand believed him to be “the most able financier in Paris”, and in the book on French banks that German writer Eugen Kaufmann published in 1914, Ullmann is described as the most influential person at the Comptoir and the architect of its recent success.


  •  …Halted by the First World War

Emile Ullmann became Vice-Chairman of the Comptoir National d’Escompte in 1908 and was in line to succeed Alexis Rostand, who had in the meantime become Chairman. However war broke out in 1914. France was seized by spy phobia, and public opinion was violently anti-German. At a time when many businessmen and industrialists of German origin were being singled out for opprobrium, a violent slander campaign, orchestrated by French nationalist movement Action française and the parliamentarian and polemicist Léon Daudet, targeted Emile Ullmann in 1915, accusing him of serving German interests. Ullmann and the Comptoir tried to defend themselves but nothing could be done. Neither Ullmann’s status as a naturalised Frenchman dating back to 1884, his decoration as an officer of the Légion d’Honneur pinned on him by Rostand in 1909, nor his son’s enlistment in the French Army fighting against Germany made the slightest difference.
Ullmann was forced to resign from his post as Manager in October 1915, then to give up his seat on the Board of Directors in April 1916. The Comptoir published a tribute to him in its Markets Report of 29 October 1915 and conferred on him the title of Honorary Director. An application to overturn Ullmann’s French naturalisation which was submitted by a prosecutor in 1918 was rejected by the Seine civil court in 1920.


Contact us / Send us a document

    This website has a cultural and historical purpose; it is not intended to deal with trade and banking relationship issues which will not be processed. See moreless

    If you have a document, a photo, a story about BNP Paribas history and want to share it, please do not hesitate to share it there.

    In transmitting this document, you certify to own it and to hold the property rights needed for their use. You authorize BNP Paribas to use it on the website Source of History.

    Thank you for indicate the origin of the documents and give us any information you consider relevant to its understanding.

    The personal data collected on this form is processed by BNP Paribas SA for processing. It allows us to provide a personalised answer to your requests (access to archives, research, information requests. Please note that fields identified by an asterisk (*) are mandatory.

    For more information on the processing of your personal data, you can access our Data Protection Notice.


    Suscribe to Well of History's newsletter

    The personal data collected from the Site are subject to data processing by BNP Paribas to enable access to and use of the functionalities offered by the Site www.histoire.bnpparibas.
    Pursuant to the French Data Protection Law No. 78-17 of 6 January 1978, you are entitled to access the data collected by BNP Paribas and to have it amended, updated or deleted, where such information is incorrect, incomplete or outdated. You can exercise this right by contacting: BNP Paribas – APAC TDC Val de Marne, TSA 30233- 94729 FONTENAY SOUS BOIS Cedex.


    Files download

    I undertake to make private use of the contents downloaded from the website


    You have added an item to your selection.

    You can find your saved contents in the “My space” section, which can be accessed at the top right of any page of the website.

    My space English A+ A-

    To find this content on your next visit, you need to create an account from this section, by clicking on:

    Fermer Welcome to

    Well of History

    Since 1822, history has made us a key player and a witness of transformations taking place in society and economy in Europe and around the world. We invite you to share in our story and explore our archives to learn more about our constantly changing world.
    Jean Lemierre Jean Lemierre,
    of BNP Paribas