A PYMNTS Company

EU politicians are warming to cross-border mergers. The French lender wants to be at the forefront

 |  January 6, 2020

By Stephen Morris and David Keohane, Financial Times

Even by the high standards of the École Polytechnique in Paris, founded to educate the country’s future business and engineering elite, the class of 1984 plays a remarkable role in European banking. 
The group contains Tidjane Thiam, Jean Pierre Mustier and Jean-Laurent Bonnafé, who run Credit Suisse, UniCredit and BNP Paribas, respectively. It also includes Frédéric Oudéa, the Société Générale boss who is Europe’s longest-serving major bank chief executive.

Still friends, the men occasionally meet to play golf. “We were very bad, all of us,” recalls Mr Oudéa about a round a few years ago with two of his classmates at the La Baule Club on France’s Atlantic coast.

 “I think our balls went in the water. It was a disaster, but it was for fun.” Those friendships could turn out to play an important role as the European banking industry considers a new round of dealmaking to create regional champions to take on the American groups that dominate the industry.

In the decade since the financial crisis, Europe’s biggest banks have largely struggled. Ultra-low interest rates, tougher post-crisis rules and the resurgence of Wall Street have made it all but impossible to generate decent returns.

For the most part, European banking executives have eschewed talk of large mergers, deterred by fragmented national laws, rules and the memory of the calamitous combination of RBS and ABN Amro at the height of the crisis.

Continue Reading…