Our history

Our history

From past to present: entrepreneurial spirit in action

On 4 May 1864, Napoleon III signed Societe Generale’s founding decree. Founded by a group of industrialists and financiers driven by the ideals of progress, the Bank’s mission has always been "to promote the development of trade and industry in France".

Since our beginnings, Societe Generale has worked to modernise the economy, following the model of a diversified bank at the cutting edge of financial innovation. The branch network grew rapidly throughout the French territory, increasing from 46 to 1,500 branches between 1870 and 1940. During the interwar period, the Bank became the leading French credit institution in terms of deposits.
At the same time, Societe Generale began to build an international reach by financing infrastructure essential to the economic development of a number of countries in Latin America, Europe and North Africa.

This expansion was accompanied by the establishment of an international retail network. In 1871, the Bank opened our London branch. On the eve of World War I, Societe Generale had a presence in 14 countries, either directly or through one of our subsidiaries, in particular in Russia. This network was then expanded by opening branches in New York, Buenos Aires, Abidjan and Dakar, and by acquiring stakes in financial institutions in Central Europe.

Innovative products driving rapid growth

Societe Generale was nationalised by the French law of 2 December 1945 and played an active role in financing the reconstruction of the French territory. The Bank thrived during the prosperous post-war decades and contributed towider adoption of banking technologies by launching innovative products for businesses, such as medium-term discountable credit and lease financing agreements, for which we held the position of market leader.

Societe Generale demonstrated our ability to adapt to a new environment by taking advantage of the banking reforms that followed the French Debré laws of 1966-1967. While continuing to support our partner companies, the Group immediately began to focus our business towards individual customers. In this way, we supported the emergence of a consumer society by diversifying the credit and savings services available to households.

In June 1987, Societe Generale was privatised with a successful stock market launch and shares were offered to Group staff. The Group developed a universal banking strategy, in particular through our Corporate and Investment Banking arm, to support the development of our customers worlwide. In France, the Bank expanded the retail banking networks by founding Fimatex in 1995, which later became Boursorama, now a leading online bank, and by acquiring Crédit du Nord in 1997. Internationally, the Group was established in Central and Eastern Europe through Komerční Banka in the Czech Republic and BRD in Romania, and in Russia with Rosbank, while consolidating growth in Africa in Morocco, Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon, among others.

The Group has more than 117,000 members of staff in 66 countries. We aim to maintain a momentum of transformation through our sustainable growth strategy, driven by our core values of Team Spirit, Innovation, Responsibility and Commitment. Firmly focused on the future whilst helping our clients to bring their projects to life, Societe Generale has embraced with conviction the opportunities of the digital age to best anticipate the needs of our customers and members of staff, and embody the bank of the 21st century. Drawing on more than 150 years of expertise at the service of its clients and the development of the real economy, in January 2020 Societe Generale group defined its new corporate purpose as "Building together, with our clients, a better and sustainable future through responsible and innovative financial solutions".