If you live in France or simply have some business in France that requires a money transfer, you will need to open a bank account with one of the banks registered in France. France's banking system can certainly be compared to other leading European countries, therefore, whichever bank you choose, in addition to online banking, you can expect quality service and a wide network of branches and ATMs. The largest banks in France include BNP Paribas, Societe General, Credit Agricole, BPCE and Credit Mutuel, in addition to other multinational banks operating in France.
When people think of private banking, many think of well-respected private banks that cater to clients with at least EUR 1 million in financial assets. Meanwhile, French private banking welcomes people with financial assets from EUR 100,000. In fact, private individuals holding between EUR 100,000 and EUR 1 million represent around 50% of total investments in the French market. Nonetheless, retail banking holds 75% of the market and nearly one in two clients eligible for private banking services still seeks the advice of a retail advisor.
Private banking is either a sector of a banking institution along with retail banking, or a separate entity engaged only in private banking. In general, private banking offers a wide range of products and services. In addition to classic retail banking services, private banking clients receive more personalized services – a full range of fund administration services, advice on securities, tax-advantaged investments, private equity, management on behalf, advice and transactions of fixed assets (art, rural real estate, real estate, etc.) and the structuring of investments.
Requirements for opening a private bank account in France
The process of opening a private bank account is fairly simple but can be daunting at times as many bankers and most of French society do not like speaking English. Although private banking is certainly more responsive to the interests and needs of their clients, you should be prepared to look for an English speaking private banker to feel comfortable entrusting him or her with your wealth.
The procedure and requirements usually vary from bank to bank, but in general the required documents are as follows:
Completed and signed application form (generally in French, but some banks offer English translations);
Copy of a valid passport;
Copy of a marriage certificate (if applicable);
Copy of a current electricity bill (usually no more than 3 months old);
proof of income;
The reservation contract or title deed of the property in France.
All private banks have a certain minimum amount of assets under management in order to become a customer. As discussed above, you will find offers from private banks to open a private account from 100,000 euros in assets. In France there are numerous banks offering private banking services. Three of these are discussed below.
With more than 100 billion EUR in assets under management and 2,400 employees located in 23 countries, BNP Paribas Private Banking is among the leading private banking organizations worldwide. In France, BNP Paribas is managing around 45 billion EUR and serving 75,000 customers. BNP Paribas brand is the highest valued in France – in 2015, its brand was worth 14.7 billion EUR. It is also a leading bank in Eurozone, ranked 2nd in Europe and 8th globally in 2017.
Banque privée Edmond de Rothschild
Banque privée Edmond De Rothschild was ranked as the best private bank in France in 2016. With headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland it is dedicated to the wealth management of private as well as institutional clients. It was founded in 1923 as Banque privée but was bought by the Rothschild family and is currently a part of the Edmond de Rothschild Group.
Société Générale is a multinational banking institution headquartered in Paris offering a wide range of services including international retail banking, corporate and investment banking, asset management, private banking as well as securities services. Société Générale is the third largest bank in France by total assets and sixth largest in Europe.
Société Générale Private Banking has developed a Centre of Expertise for Wealth Planning and Fiduciary (Trust) Services for global wealth planning. Each year, the centre delivers over 1000 wealth studies in addition to in-house expertise in domestic and international wealth planning.
As mentioned above, when coming to France you have to keep in mind that French people do not like to speak English. Surely, when opening a bank account you want to be understood and be able to communicate freely also if you do not speak French. Therefore, it is highly suggested to make sure that your private manager speaks English or ensure you have a translator before opening an account with a certain bank.
Generally, banks are open from 09:00 to 17:00 in workdays, but some branches tend to have irregular opening hours (for example, half a day) and lunchtime closing is a rather normal appearance. Before opening a private bank account, make sure that the bank has opening hours convenient to you.