Société Générale targets transaction banking

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According to Benoît Desserre, head of global transaction
banking at Société Générale, 2018 was a “remarkable year” for the business.

The bank’s net income in Western Europe (excluding France),
Asia and the USA for transaction services rose by 16% – “outstanding given that
we are seeing negative interest rates in markets in Europe,” he says.

France is not included in this data. Critics claim that this
is because Société Générale’s performance in the country has come under
pressure from competitors such as BNP Paribas and Crédit Agricole. Desserre
explains, however, that it is because the bank is already a “global transaction
banking (GTB) leader in its home country. As such, growth is particularly
difficult to achieve there and would not reflect our growth in the business.”

Benoît Desserre,
Société Générale

The bank does not break down profits from its global
transaction banking business
but Desserre is adamant that it is well on its way to achieving its GTB
target – publicly outlined in its five-year plan – to grow revenue from €1.9
billion in 2016 to €2.6 billion in 2022.

“We have every confidence that we will reach our goal,” he says.
“Our market share in the business is only going to grow from here.”

Tough year

Société Générale has had a tough year in investment banking,
so for Desserre, investing in GTB is a strategy that makes sense. The business
is one of the key growth areas for the bank. “Our strategy now is that if we
grow our GTB business, if we harness the success we have in cash, FX and trade and
our investment banking business will strengthen as a result,” he says.

But some bankers with knowledge of the institution argue
that Société Générale’s push to become a transaction services leader will suffer
from the lack of a “unified vision” at the bank.

“There is no question that Société Générale has an
impressive footprint in Europe, but one of the problems the bank has faced in
the past is that there hasn’t been enough coordination and communication
between the regions,” says one source.

“The bank doesn’t have a unified vision, and this may affect
how its GTB business develops.”

This has also damaged Société Générale’s ability to hold on
to new talent, claims the banker. “The bank has invested a lot in technology
and people but rather than leverage the expertise they have gained, they see
them as more of a trophy, a statement, which will mean that this new talent
will eventually leave.”

There is no shortage of transaction banking talent around. Banks
in the business have picked up people from Deutsche Bank, which has announcedmass layoffs in the last year, and RBS, which closed its international transaction banking business back in 2015, as well as others.

Société Générale has been active in hiring from this pool,
and in half of the countries where it has a transaction banking presence in
Europe the business is run by bankers hired from elsewhere. Claudia Serigado
Antunes, who is now head of global transaction banking in Spain, was hired from
RBS in 2016; Gabriele Schnell, who is head of cash management and payments for
the bank in Germany, came from HSBC in 2016; and Peter Clemens, who is the head
of the global transaction banking team in Belgium, was at RBS for ten years
before joining Société Générale in 2017.

“Last year alone we hired 180 people into our transaction
banking business,” says Desserre.

“People are now beginning to approach us – the sheer volume
of recruitment into this business illustrates just how fast we are growing and
few if any senior people we have in our GTB business have left since I became
global head in 2016,” he says.

Moreover, he disputes the need for the “GTB unified vision”
that others say is lacking. “We need to build strategies that are best suited
to each region we are present in – having a unified vision, and as I understand
it, a unified strategy to our development, won’t work because our banks,
whether retail and/or wholesale, do differ by region.”

Euromoney will
keenly monitor the bank’s progress in GTB.

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