“Siège & Agences”: Societe Generale’s first news bulletin

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In October 1952, Societe Generale published the first issue of its in-house new bulletin. What did employees find in it?

Couverture bulletin 1953

The creation of Siège & Agences was inspired by a dual concern: to provide executives with certain elements of general news and information that could make their daily duties easier, and to enable people to better know the Group, its values, its history and its structure. Each issue had an economy and stock market column, feature articles on political, organisational or banking technique issues (based on articles or presentations drafted by the Group’s senior management) and short articles about the Bank’s history.

The lead article in the first issue, soberly titled “Reforms and modern work methods in banks”, was a presentation by Managing Director Maurice Lorain. It was addressed “Dear Sirs” (there were few female executives in the banking sector in 1952), and highlighted the potential of technical breakthroughs offered by microfilm, typewriters and revolutionary “electronic machines” like punch cards, which the author was clearly expecting a lot from. Maurice Lorain also advocated American methods for creating an ideal work environment (good lighting, light paint colours), whilst rejecting the idea of “functional music”, which he felt “doesn’t suit the French temperament” (which is indeed still the case today!) He ended by acknowledging that French banks were not beyond reproach, but were “living organisms, and therefore fallible, and thus improvable”, an insightful observation in light of the current context.

So what was the economic and market situation back in 1952? With the US elections drawing near, the government was attempting to put an end to the upward trend that energy prices had been experiencing over the previous two years. Extreme weather conditions were restricting agricultural production and there were concerns that purchasing power would decrease. As the saying goes, “some things never change”!

The 1952 news bulletin had 38 pages. Essentially consisting of text, it did have four photos (including two of punch cards!) and six charts (notably showing changes in the prices of rubber, wool and cotton). Despite its relatively ordinary content and layout, Siège & Agences does stand out in one respect: it shows that Societe Generale’s philosophy, based on a sense of belonging and the sharing of common values to help its customers, already existed 67 years ago!

© Societe Generale Historical Archives