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What responsibility in the central governance of mutual bank groups? Reflections on the Natixis-BPCE case (2006-2010)



ID: <10670/1.1fsqwp>


Historically operating in retail banking, the French groups of mutual banks have become more and more present in the globalized business of capital markets during the last decade. Two of them (groupes Caisse d’Epargne et Banque Populaire) were hit so strongly by the financial crisis through the channel of Natixis, their joint CIB (established in 2006) that the French government directly forced them to a merger (2009-2010). Such difficulties raise ethical questions around the accountability in the corporate governance at the head of these mutual banking groups. The principles of membership sovereignty are put in tension by the practices of professional mimicry at the head of the central organs and of their financial subsidiaries (sophisticated operations, professionalization push, shift to shareholder forms). Whereas the regional banks of these groups have tried hard to value the image of a partnership governance which associates managers and representatives of their members, the central structures have evolved towards a crossed model of shareholder governance, characterized by a technical and political vision. These recent evolutions are studied through a narrative approach of institutional and public documents. By induction, this exploration leads to question the influence of a technocratic imagination on the representations of the executive responsibility at the top of banking groups which are referring to the values of a voluntary and joint membership.

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