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.