Jean Jadot, the engineer banker



  • Men & Women
  • Project financing

“Jadot is a great man, truly first-rate,” is how King Leopold II of Belgium described him. It was his skills as a railway engineer that first brought Jean Jadot to public notice and which led him to join the top management team at the Société Générale de Belgique, a forerunner of BNP Paribas Fortis.


•  An engineer who pioneered Belgium’s presence in China

Born in 1862 at On in Belgium, Jean Jadot graduated from the University of Louvain. After working for several years in Belgium and Luxembourg, he went abroad in 1894 to Egypt, where he worked on the Cairo tram system and then rose to become Director of the Lower Egypt Railroad Company.
It was however from 1898 onwards, when he set off for China, that he began to make a name for himself. At that time, the Franco-Belgian railway development company Société d’Etude de Chemins de Fer en Chine had just obtained the concession to build and run the first major railroad in China, over 1,200 kilometres of track linking the cities of Peking and Hankow (modern-day Beijing and Hankou). This pioneering railway line was financed by three forerunner banks of the BNP Paribas Group: the Société Générale de Belgique; the Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas (Paribas); and the Comptoir National d’Escompte de Paris. Jean Jadot was appointed Director of Works. He quickly grasped the importance of this venture for the furtherance of Belgian interests in China and went beyond his basic remit, working to extend the company’s network of contacts. Works began in March 1899 and – in spite of numerous political obstacles, notably the Boxer Rebellion which led to military incursions from foreign powers, and technical problems, including the need to construct a 3km-long bridge over the Yellow River – the line was opened in 1905.


Jean Jadot and his team

Jean Jadot and his team


•  Governor of the Société Générale de Belgique

On Jadot’s return to Brussels in 1906, the prestige he had acquired led to his appointment as Director in charge of the Industry Department at the Société Générale de Belgique, a forerunner of BNP Paribas Fortis. King Leopold II subsequently asked him to participate in various showcase projects that were part of Belgian colonial policy in the Congo, notably the construction of a railroad linking Leopoldville with the province of Katanga. Appointed Governor of the Société Générale de Belgique in 1913, Jean Jadot steered the Bank into entirely new fields, such as electric power projects, also making the young Belgian Congo colony a key area for its investment strategy. One of his guiding ideas was to free Belgian industry from foreign influence and dependency. Inter alia, he financed the work of the Belgian chemist Albert Meurice to develop pharmaceuticals. The Bank also set about creating holding companies that drew together similar or complementary activities in a given field of industry, a notable example being the non-ferrous metals refining company Société Générale de Minerais founded in 1919.


• A man of commitment and responsibility

Jean Jadot’s contemporaries were impressed by his keen intelligence, his outstanding organisational abilities and his great perspicacity as regards the technical and economic aspects of the Second Industrial Revolution. He liked to hire academic experts – frequently engineers – for management posts but also prized human qualities such as enthusiasm, integrity and loyalty. Moreover, he saw it as an essential duty to care for one’s family. On the death of his father, though he himself had barely left university, he took it upon himself to provide for the future of his young brothers and he put aside all thoughts of marriage until his siblings were safely established in life. However, Jean Jadot partly owed his own great success to his close collaboration with Emile Francqui. The two men first became acquainted in the Far East during the Peking-Hankow railway project and their later success at Société Générale de Belgique arose from an efficient division of responsibilities between them. Emile Francqui later took over from Jean Jadot as Governor when he died in 1932.


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
    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