Innovation at Societe Generale: a long history

Societe Generale owes its 150 years of history in part to ceaseless innovation by its men and women and the teams on which they work.

Whether Corporate Governance, changes in the company, new technologies, new banking and financial practices and even Human Resources, every area of the bank has been impacted by innovations developed within the Group. Without abandoning its corporate identity or sacrificing its values, a business must, if it hopes to survive, rely on innovative breakthroughs.

Societe Generale owes its 150 years of history in part to ceaseless innovation by its men and women and the teams on which they work.

First, an institution as old as Societe Generale has obviously had to weather a number of crises. These crises threatened the survival of the bank and were conducive to innovation, giving rise to such innovations as the bank's Inspectorate, which was instituted following the long "Guano Affair" in the late 19th century, or the development of options, in which the bank played a seminal role. Options are financial products created at the end of the 1980s following a corporate raid attempt on Societe Generale by the "Golden Grandpas"* which facilitated corporate financial management and contributed to the economic expansion of the 1990s.

Innovation is also embedded in the bank's very identity. Founded in 1864 by a group of manufacturers seeking to spur French economic growth, it was hoped that Societe Generale would foster the growth of trade and industry; in fact, it was among the first to understand the needs of business. So the bank's innovative capacity is hardly surprising. We also point to the introduction of medium-term financing in 1928, developed for the bank's subsidiary, Crédit à l'industrie française or CALIF, or, more recently, the invention of equipment leasing in the late 1960s, which offered businesses an opportunity to strengthen their cash position.

Finally, innovation was made possible by anticipating sociological and corporate change. Just a few years before feminist movements coalesced, the Personnel Department, noting the ever-increasing number of women working for the network, determined that the time had come to promote them to senior management positions. A programme was set up in the mid-1960s to provide training to at least five women a year and to then put them in charge of a group of branches. More recently, today's heightened environmental awareness has inspired the Group to build the first HQE®-certified building: the Tour Granite.

* Golden Grandpas are people who are partial to playing on the stock markets. However, unlike the golden boys, they are elderly hence the name given to them. Golden Grandpas include François Dalle (Chairman of L'Oréal), Jean-Louis Descours (André shoes) and Gustave Leven, former CEO of Perrier who backed Georges Pébereau, head of the Real Estate group (Société Immobilière de Gestion et de Participation ) in its failed take-over attempt of Societe Generale.

Watch the video to find out more about the history of innovation within the Group