Societe Generale is one of those banks that form part of everyday life for the French. As one of the founding banks of the French trade and industry, the bank has forged deep and enduring financial paths for the French economy.
The bank is not without reproach, however, as the dark cloud following the financial crisis of 2008 was due to sub-prime operations performed by banks such as Societe Generale. The bank recently agreed to pay a fine of $50 million for their role in these operations. Has this matter set the bank back among its peers? This review uncovers who and what Societe Generale is, and the role they currently play in the French economy.
History of Societe Generale
Societe Generale was established simply “to support the growth of trade and industry in France”. The founders were a group of manufacturers and financiers and the head office was based in Rue de Provence. This took place in 1864 and in a few short years, the bank expanded to 15 branches within Paris, and 32 around the country. It was only natural that a global expansion would follow. This took place with the first branch in London in 1871.
After the loss of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, the Treaty of Frankfurt made provisions for France to pay Prussia five billion francs in war reparations. This was to take place over a three-year period. It also resulted in the government launching a national loan scheme, with Societe Generale authorized to issue debentures.
The outfall of the war led to severe economic pressure in Europe and North America which prompted the bank to invest in South America. It was also during this period that the Guano Affair took place.
During the German takeover of some of the regions of France due to the Frankfurt Treaty, the bank made use of the opportunity to grow within Germany. Societe Generale proceeded to grow their footprint into other areas of the world, increase the global footprint. 1896 was a big year for the bank as the Dow Jone Industrial Average was created, and the bank introduced a provident fund.
At the turn of the century, the bank partnered with The Universal Exposition and funded the event. It also managed to obtain inroads into Russia. Shortly after this, the bank was concerned with the physical health of its employees and founded Club Athlétique de la Société Générale (CASG). A few years later, the bank was plagued with robberies by the Bonnot Gang.
1914 was the start of another war as France declared war on Germany. This was the period where war bonds became a well-known fixture within the banking environment. Peace Loans were known to have covered just over half of the cost of the war. Just after the war, staff was trained to be more professional as the complexity of the products increased.
In 1929 a big blow to the world economy happened in 1929 when the new York stock exchange collapsed. This event would forever be known as Black Thursday and was the reason for the Great Depression. Hardly a decade after this, the onset of WWII dealt world economies another blow. It was not uncommon for soldiers to starve or be overcome by adverse weather conditions, and the effect it had on finances was devastating. It was at the end of the war, in 1945, that Societe Generale was nationalized.
After the War
In 1948 the bank opened a summer camp for employees’ children. The camp accommodated children between the ages of 6 to 14 which continued for decades. In the sixties, the bank turned its African networks into subsidiaries as these countries obtained their independence.
During the eighties, the bank was earmarked for privatization due to its sound financial health. In 1988 the bank faced insider trading drama, and in 1990 to 1993, 11 people were indicted.
The nineties provided the bank with the opportunity to rebrand and relocate. It was also during this period where the bank developed international retail banking and experienced an attempted raid by BNP.
In the new millennium, the European Union welcomed the arrival of the Euro. 2008 was a hard year for the bank, as it underwent the Kerviel case and experienced the beginning of the sub-prime crisis.
In the years to come, the bank accepted its social responsibility. It also took the time to develop its digital footprint to allow customers easier access to the banking products. This provided an easier way for clients to do their banking, which relieved a substantial amount of pressure from the branches.
Access to Societe Generale
Online banking is simple and easy to use and provides the customer with the means to perform secure online transactions. Furthermore, customers may also apply for other products on this platform.
The bank has branches in over 66 countries, and according to its website has over 31 million customers. The bank provides a traditional walk-in solution in order for customers to perform their transactions. The worldwide locations include:
- Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, and Congo.
- Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Guinea.
- Madagascar, Mauritania, Morrocco, Mozambique, and Senegal.
- South Africa, Togo, and Tunisia
- China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Turkey, and Vietnam.
- Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, and Croatia.
- Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, and France.
- Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Greece, Ireland, Italy, and Latvia.
- Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Moldova, and Montenegro.
- Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, and Russia.
- Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
- Turkey, Ukraine, and United Kingdom.
French Overseas Territories
France, Mayotte, Reunion Island.
Jordan, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates.
North and Central America
United States of America
Australia and New Caledonia
French Polynesia, French West Indies, Guadeloupe, Martinique.
Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Uruguay.
The Middle East
Societe Generale Individual Banking Product Offerings
The website is a bit tricky to navigate and we were unable to locate any current accounts. In fact, the sitemap has a tab called “All Products” which only lists Save, Stock Exchange, and Consumer Credit.
A full review on the savings products is available.
This service allows customers to manage their portfolio online. Furthermore, the service also extends to the mobile app and telephonic customer service.
- This option allows customers to benefit from reduced brokerage fees, as well as a few free services.
- Furthermore, customers have access to all the stock market prices, market news, and more.
- Finally, customers manage their share portfolios with full autonomy.
Standard Securities Account
Customers who are new to the securities game can manage their stock portfolio with ease. Furthermore, customers can track and manage their portfolios online.
- This account facilitates investments in securities and mutual funds.
- Furthermore, these include Sicav and FCP of any kind on the French or foreign stock exchanges.
- Also, customers benefit from reduced brokerage fees.
Clicking Stock Exchange
This account is for those who wish to place regular savings invested in financial markets. Furthermore, the savings is programmed in Sicav nd FCP.
- This account allows the gradual creation of savings invested in the stock market from as little as €50 per month.
- Furthermore, customers have access to a wide range of funds.
- Also, customers can add to their fund at any time without hassles or penalties.
- Finally, this account facilitates the gradual creation of medium- and long-term savings.
This option allows customers to discover the opportunities of the fixed-income markets. Furthermore, this provides customers with access to yield opportunities for the main products.
- Customers have access to a wide range of investment opportunities.
- Furthermore, they are able to supplement their portfolios with OPCs.
- Also, these have highly differentiated strategies which depend mainly on the quality of the issuers.
Customers have the choice between three monetary funds. Furthermore, this has a waiting placement with a lower risk than the shares.
- This product aims to enable clients to achieve a performance equal to that of the money market.
- Also, this option aims to maintain daily liquidity and capital preservation.
Socially Responsible Investment
This account gives meaning to savings by playing an active role in the economy. Furthermore, this option takes into account the environment, social policy, and governance.
- Customers receive an offer that is adapted to all asset classes. These include monetary, bond, or equities.
- Furthermore, the selection requires the stocks to generate capital gains and dividends on the basis of a traditional financial analysis.
- Finally, an extra financial analysis is carried out in order to assess the practices of companies. These are in relation to the environment, social criteria, and governance.
With this option, customers can target a country, continent, or the whole world. Furthermore, customers choose to access markets in France or across the world.
- Customers have the option of 13 OPC investments across countries, continents, or the entire world.
- Furthermore, this grants clients access to all major economic zones including Europe, America, and Asia.
Equity Savings Plan
This provides customers with an advantageous framework to invest in the stock market. Furthermore, customers benefit from a privileged tax regime.
Equity Savings Plan SMEs
This savings allows customers to support SMEs on the stock markets. There is also the option to convert the capital into a life annuity.
With this option, customers get to explore the dynamics of the various sectors. Furthermore, they will have options in energy, raw materials, or real estate.
Customers who wish to have access to the various management styles will have a great time with this investment. Furthermore, customers have the opportunity to experience the expertise and the results of the different strategies. Also, there is a choice among 7 UCIs.
Customers have access to capitalized investment in whole or in part.
The bank has an impressive rating on this range with its full review.
Societe Generale Professional Banking Product Offering
Professionals who wish to have their current accounts with the bank have access to some neat product offerings. They have access to a dedicated team for the personal and professional accounts. Furthermore, they have 24/7 access to their accounts online. There is also the custom overdraft authorization. Finally, customers have access to a loyalty program.
This offers customers a complete solution that adapts to their professional activity. Furthermore, customers know upfront what the cost is to maintain their business account. Also, customers enjoy offers at preferential rates.
This is a suitable option for any professional. Furthermore, the account is available to sole proprietors or legal persons. Finally, there is a clear and transparent account agreement.
This solution is perfect for those who wish to finance a property of their own for their business or to purchase one as an additional asset. Customers will have exposure to different loan options such as Classic Credit, Real Estate Leasing, and Loan Resumed.
Customers are exposed to various financing options to suit their individual needs. Furthermore, the loan types range from rental options to credit. The choices are:
- Rental with Purchase Option
- Long Term Rental
- Conventional Credit
For those who require a small loan of under €50,000, there is also the Jet Pro option.
Financing Professional Equipment
Customers who require equipment to expand their business can finance new or used items. Also, the options are Furniture Leasing, Classic Credit, and Jet Pro.
These loans are suitable for those who recently acquired their premises but need work done such as shopfitting and more. Customers will use Classic Credit or Jet Pro for this loan.
These options are ideal for customers who deal with seasonal fluctuations and customer payment deadlines. Options available to customers include:
- The Current Treasury Agreement
There are various options available to professional clients.
For the Business
- Key Accounts
- Legal Protection of Pros
The Owner and their Loved Ones
- The Complementary Health
- Work Stoppage and Death
- Collective Health
Savings and Retirement Options
There are various options here, however, navigating this portion of the website proves to be tricky. This method is likely to try and encourage clients to speak to an agent or go to the branch.
Societe Generale Enterprise Banking Product Offerings
One Time or Seasonal Needs
This would not require recurring cash into the business and could be for a project or expansion purpose. Products that are suitable for this include:
- Overdraft Facility
- Cash Credit
- Financing On-Demand Invoices
This is an important option for clients who need access to working capital while they wait for payments from their clients.
- Financing On-Demand Invoices
Financing Tax Credits
- CICE Funding
- EIF Funding
- Business Intelligence
There are various options available to business clients. These include Classic Bank Credit, Furniture or real Estate Leasing, and more.
- Finance and Guarantee Internationally
- Finance and Securing Domestic Markets
- External Growth
Customers have access to a variety of projects that will allow them to complete their transactions successfully on the international front. This includes securing their transactions and financing development.
There are various options available, from Treasury OPC to Managed Funds.
Customers provide their employees with the means to remain motivated. These include
- Additional Retirement Options
- Performance Incentives through Savings Schemes
- Health Supplement Policy
The bank also provides specialized services to Associations and Private Clients.
The bank also happens to have an impressive insurance range and a full review is available.
Review of Societe Generale – 7 of 10
Customer Satisfaction Review
A dismal 1.9 of 5 is a bad rating, however, is far better than many of the other banks.
This rating is from the staff who work for the bank. The bank receives a 4 of 5.
Ratings here are surprisingly lower than expected. The rating is 3.4 of 5, with only 88% of staff approving the CEO.
Financial Stability Rating
The bank enjoys a stable and positive outlook from the ratings agencies.
Security of Funds
The bank conforms to the security of deposit rulings for the specific country it operates in.
Review by Critical Reviews
As far as professional and enterprise banking go, Societe Generale has it all figured out. It provides a number of great products in those fields, and offer neat product packages. Furthermore, the ratings are stable and the bank agreed to pay their fine as per the 2008 financial crisis.
What brought the bank down was the lack of care as far as individual banking is concerned. Products are very difficult to navigate the site, and some of the products on the site don’t exist anymore. There is no information on current accounts for individuals. The website is confusing and products are scattered all over without providing a streamlined solution. Also, staff morale can do with a little boost, especially where senior management is concerned.