The Foundation in 1864
Founded by a group of manufacturers and financiers, the ‘Societe Generale to support the growth of trade and industry in France’ was established by Imperial decree on 4 May 1864. The bank opened its first Paris branch close to the capital's stock exchange in 1865. Five years later, Societe Generale would have 15 branches in Paris and 32 around the country. In 1871, the first international branch was opened in London, then the world's leading financial centre.
Over the years, Societe Generale has financed infrastructure projects that stand as landmarks of a new era: the Paris metro and the Eiffel Tower in France, as well as international projects such as the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Panama and Suez canals.
Our history in Asia goes back a long time
As soon as 1867, the bank had a network of commercial agents in Japan. It was very active for the financing of railway structures, a policy that enabled Societe Generale to attach its name to the execution of major projects of public interest, work for the development of the economy and extend international trade relations. As far back as 1907, Societe Generale issued bonds for the development of such cities as Tokyo and Shanghai.
In January 1910, the Banque du Nord, which was a subsidiary of Societe Generale, merged with Banque russo-chinoise, a subsidiary of Paribas, to create Banque russo-asiatique. The combined networks of the two banking institutions gave Banque russo-asiatique branch networks in Russia and China as well as the opportunity to enter Asian trade financing circuits. Five agencies were located in Manchuria: Hailar, Harbin, Kouantchendzy, Newchang, Tsisikar.
At the very beginning of the 20th century, Societe Generale provided its assistance in the construction of a section of the Trans-Siberian Railway. In addition, Societe Generale was involved in several Chinese lines and more specifically the Yun-Nan line, whose construction enabled France to extend its influence to the north of Tonkin. In 1899, it participated in the Peking-Hankeou bond issue, for a 1,000 kilometre railway line built by the Belgians and French from 1898. Lastly, in 1913, through the Russo-Asiatic Bank, it devised railway investment projects in the Shan-Hsi province (Peking-Szechuan) and in Manchuria.
We have always been at the cutting edge of financial innovation and we take strength from our origins to assert our banking vision for the future, and become the reference bank of the 21st century.