Francois Perol, CEO of BPCE, France’s second-biggest bank, is more worried now than he was in 2009.

“It was 100 percent clear what had to be done in 2009,” said Perol, who cited negative interest rates, China, regulations, and a global slowdown as current worries.

BPCE is the result of a 2009 merger of cooperative banks Banque Populaire and Caisse d’Epargne, with state aid, to prevent the collapse of their investment banking arm Natixis.

Reuters reports French Bank Chief ‘More Worried About Sector Now Than in 2009’

Francois Perol said on the sidelines of an economic conference in Italy on Saturday that negative interest rates in the euro zone were a major problem, squeezing interest margins in a way that was unsustainable over the longer term.

“I am much more worried than I was in 2009 in certain respects,” Perol said outside the closed-door conference, held on the shores of Lake Como.

“It was 100 percent clear what had to be done (in 2009),” he added. “I think it’s more of a difficult situation for banks (now) because fundamental changes are underway in an environment that’s incredibly challenging due to negative interest rates.”

A European central bank official speaking on condition of anonymity told the conference that bank profitability had been affected by negative rates in some cases, but overall the policy had not led to a deterioration in lenders’ balance sheets.

On Thursday in Frankfurt ECB chief economist Peter Praet acknowledged negative rates would become a worry for banks’ business models if they persisted for two or three years.

Perol said regulatory uncertainty made the situation worse for banks, which were waiting for new capital rules to be finalised, including regulations aimed at further reducing the need for massive government bailouts of banks in a future crisis.

Bloomberg provides a concise synopsis in its report European Bank Outlook More Uncertain Than in 2009, Perol Says.

“Chinese growth is decreasing, oil prices are down with unexpected consequences, geopolitical risk is in a lot of areas,” Perol told reporters Saturday on the sidelines of the Ambrosetti Workshop in Cernobbio, Italy. Banks also have to deal with structural changes including “digitalization, a huge change for our retail banking business, negative interest rates and a changing regulatory landscape,” said Perol.

Summary of Worries

  • Negative interest rates
  • Digitalization
  • Regulation
  • New capital rules
  • Squeezed margins
  • Falling oil prices
  • China
  • Geopolitical risks

BPCE Merger

I was curious about the merger that created BPCE and the amount of bailout aid it received.

A search for Natixis Bank Financial Crisis turned up the information on page 174 of a banking crisis report called “European Bank Restructuring During the Global Financial Crisis“.


BPCE came into being because Banque Populaire and Caisse d’Epargne had huge stakes in Natixis.

Natixis plunged 95% because of its involvement in subprime debt, a Eurotunnel project that blew up, and Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme.

Wow, that’s quite the investment parlay.

Yet, there’s more worries now than in 2009. Besides, we knew what to do then (sweep it under the rug with state bailouts and central bank help including zero interest rates).

Today, everyone is clueless about what to do.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock