Over one hundred years in Morocco
In 2013, Societe Generale celebrated one hundred years of our presence in Morocco. We take a look at this history and the resounding success of one of our largest subsidiaries on the African continent.
On 19 June 1913, Societe Generale's Board of Directors approved the decision to begin operations in Morocco. The country had been at the centre of colonial rivalries and had been made a French protectorate just a year earlier. The first branch opened in the business district of Casablanca in order to ease the Bank's integration into the local networks. Until World War Two, the Bank played a fairly sizeable role in financing the Moroccan economy. It earned the trust of a customer base of agricultural commodity traders, encouraged the development of the country's textile industry by importing cotton from the US via its New York branch and supported the development of a railway network. Resolute in its role as a pioneer, the Bank also contributed to the emergence of a stock market by participating in listings, share issues and capital increases. But its beginnings were rather modest due to the population's marginal use of banking services, which presented a major hurdle to its growth. This was reflected in the limited size of the Bank's network, long confined to the trading city of Casablanca after fruitless attempts in Tangier and Fez.
Following the country's independence in 1956, the Bank adapted its strategy in order to better integrate into the fabric of the local economy. On 30 June 1962, the Bank decided to set up a local subsidiary and transformed its operations into a structure governed by Moroccan law. Société Générale Marocaine de Banque (SGMB) was born. Three years later, it merged with Société Marseillaise de Crédit's five branches in Morocco. Success was on the cards. Between 1962 and 1970, share capital grew from 4 million to 10 million dirhams, mainly thanks to the support of the Deveco-Souss Group, which acquired a 25% stake. The Group's dynamic growth allowed it to buy 20% of Société de Banque du Maghreb in 1971. Another clear indication of its growth was the steady expansion of the branch network to the rest of the kingdom, expanding outwards from Casablanca to Agadir, Rabat, Fez, Marrakesh, Tangier and Tetouan, totalling 41 branches by 1978.
A second turning point was marked on 7 May 1973. A dahir, a royal decree, ordered the "Moroccanisation" of capital and management boards in key sectors of the country's economy. However, this legislation did not impose a break-away from the parent company. Under the leadership of new Chairman and Deputy Director Mohamed Bargach, the Bank pursued its development with remarkable vitality. In 1976, the Bank's capital increased to 33 million dirhams, and reached 51 million dirhams three years later. Societe Generale covered ground in every direction, making its brand known in the midst of fierce competition. Faithful to its original purpose, it encouraged customers to save with the introduction of the deposit account in 1975. It helped investors and, to stimulate the development of trade and industry, supported small businesses. In the same spirit, it diversified its operations, retaining the trust of its shareholders in the early days of economic change at the end of the 20th century. Lease financing business Sogelease opened its doors in 1981. Other subsidiaries joined the Group, through acquisitions or the creation of new entities. These included Sogecapital Bourse (stock brokerage), Sogecapital Gestion (asset management), Foncimmo (real estate), Eqdom (consumer finance), ALD Automotive (operational vehicle leasing), La Marocaine Vie (life insurance) and Athena Courtage (insurance brokers). All these subsidiaries became part of the market's liberalisation, while their vibrancy and the range of services provided helped make Societe Generale Maroc the country's third largest bank and the leading private financial group with a major international shareholder.
In 1995, the number of branches passed the 100 mark. In 1999, the bank's net income totalled 286 million dirhams. The following year, as the Moroccanisation policy was laid aside, Societe Generale Group became the majority shareholder of Société Général Maroc with a 51.9% stake. Today, the Group's stake is 56.9%. This development led to a capital increase from 1.17 billion dirhams in 2001 to 2.05 billion dirhams in 2008.