1848-2018: 170 years ago, the story of BNP Paribas began in France


Prospectus of the Comptoir National d'Escompte de Paris, 1895 - BNP Paribas Historical Archives

On 7 March 1848, the Provisional Government of the French Republic decided to create short-term credit institutions in France’s largest cities. This initiative was a response to an urgent need: to stop the economic crisis that had struck the country for two years by reviving business loans. Among the 69 discount banks set up across France that year were two originating banks of the French branch of BNP Paribas. A closer look at two pioneers serving their regional economy: CNEP (Comptoir national d’escompte de Paris) and CNEM (Comptoir national d’escompte de Mulhouse).


CNEP, a bank born of the economic crisis and the commitment of booksellers

CNEP was founded on 8 March 1848 through the joint action of France’s central government, the city of Paris, and a group of Parisian publishers and booksellers, who like many entrepreneurs and merchants, were weakened by the economic crisis that paralysed France. How could they function if drafts between merchants and suppliers were no longer accepted? That was the issue behind their commitment in establishing CNEP.

Excerpt from the decree establishing the CNEP in 1848 - BNP Paribas Historical Archives

Excerpt from the decree establishing the CNEP in 1848 – BNP Paribas Historical Archives

While they were not the only ones concerned with credit, booksellers, close to the republican political power, provided the necessary impetus for the plan aiming to restore business loans and confidence..

Medallions of the CNEP's founders, installed on the top of the Atrium of BNP Paribas Asset Management head office, located 14 rue bergère - Paris

Medallions of the CNEP’s founders, installed on the top of the Atrium of BNP Paribas Asset Management head office, located 14 rue bergère – Paris


Since its creation, CNEP has demonstrated its usefulness. In 1860, following the free trade agreement with England, it began to expand its activities to financing French companies abroad. This led to its first branches in Shanghai and Calcutta. The Group’s international tradition already existed!

Vue de Clive Street à Calcutta, où fut ouverte l'agence du CNEP - Archives historiques BNP Paribas

View of  Clive Street in Calcutta, where the CNEP’s branch opened – BNP Paribas Historical Archives

Over nearly two centuries of bank mergers and alliances, CNEP changed its name and governance. It made way for BNP, then BNP Paribas, but its original purpose has continued: to contribute to the financing of the economy.


To learn more, watch the video “L’escompte, la formule de crédit à court terme qui a financé l’économie française jusque dans les années 1960” [Discounting: the form of short-term credit that financed the French economic until the 1960s], featuring Patrice Baubeau of University Paris-Ouest La Défense.


CNEM, an institution serving industrial development in north-eastern France

CNEM (Comptoir de Mulhouse) was created on 11 March 1848 on the initiative of France’s central government and a group of Alsatian manufacturers, representing the textile and mechanical sectors.
CNEM was very dynamic and built upon the flourishing regional activity. It bought out numerous institutions in the northeast but also in Lyon, Marseille, Le Havre, and Paris.

In the early 1900s, this institution, where the genealogy of BNP Paribas begins, became one of the first French regional banks.

Discover its unknown history in the video featuring Nicolas Stoskopf, emeritus professor at Université de Haute Alsace.

Did you know?

Although the French history of BNP Paribas dates back to 1848, the Group’s oldest forerunner was founded in 1822 in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, which combined the Belgian and Dutch provinces at the time. Created in Brussels by the Royal Decree of 13 December 1822 by Guillaume I to promote national industry, Société Générale des Pays-Bas, which became Société Générale de Belgique in 1830, played a vital role in Belgium’s economic and industrial history. From 1822 to 1998, the institution changed its name several times and underwent mergers. In 1998, it joined the Belgian-Dutch Fortis Group. Then in 2009, BNP Paribas bought out the Belgian branch of Fortis, which became BNP Paribas Fortis. The BNP Paribas Group will celebrate the year 1822 around the world during its bicentenary in 2022.

To learn more about the origins of BNP Paribas, discover its genealogy [Banner: serving our customers for nearly 2 centuries]


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    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.
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