banking and capital markets
October 19, 2012
BNP Paribas Eyes U.S. and Asia, But Growth Will Be Slow
BNP Paribas has weathered the crisis better than most European banks. Now can new CEO Jean-Laurent Bonnafé generate some growth in Asia and the U.S.?
By Neil Sen
JEAN-LAURENT BONNAFÉ SHEDS THE JACKET OF HIS dark-gray suit as he enters the second-floor meeting room of BNP Paribass offices at lHôtel de Mondragon, a grand former town hall where Napoléon Bonaparte married Joséphine de Beauharnais in 1796. Dressed in a light-blue shirt with a button-down collar and a dark-blue tie, the chief executive officer speaks so softly during a recent interview that it is difficult to hear him above the noise of the Paris traffic outside.
Yet his language is clear enough. In fluent English, he spells out his basic approach to managing the euro zones second-largest bank by assets. As a senior banker, you have to be able to balance the often contrasting themes of risk and innovation, as well as balance a number of different dimensions such as client relationships, technology and staff, he says. Of BNP, he adds, we are a balanced company, and that makes it easier for us to survive and prosper across the cycles.
The big French bank has indeed survived the financial crisis better than most European banks, but its balance poses a serious challenge for Bonnafé. The bulk of the banks retail operations, which generate just over half the groups earnings, are in the heart of the euro zone and are struggling with the economic torpor caused by the blocs debt crisis. The French economy has been stagnant with virtually no growth for the past three quarters, while Italy and Belgium, the banks other big euro zone markets, have fallen....