CEO of Banque Transatlantique
Like the bank's logo, the looming presence of an ocean liner poised for exotic voyages, entering the building is to be carried back to a time when banks and travel had an elegance all of their own.
Karen Archer was recently welcomed at the bank's headquarters by Bruno Julien-Laferrière, CEO of the bank, to discuss its activities and support for French Heritage Society.
Eugène Pereire created the bank in response to the French government's decision to cease state funding of transatlantic ventures. The Pereire brothers were prominent 19th-century financiers in Paris and rivals of the Rothschilds. Thus, Pereire formed a private bank to complement his main management stake in the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, which he and his brothers had founded in 1855 as the Compagnie Générale Maritime.
"So one of the company's main activities was transporting passengers and freight across the Atlantic, between Europe and the United States" Bruno Julien-Laferrière begins, "and it was known for its beautiful ocean liners." Indeed much about the rich wood paneling and the Art Deco fixtures and furnishings of the second floor offices and conference room are reminiscent of an ocean liner.
"The bank prospered in the 19th and 20th centuries being associated with many major infrastructure and other projects. Jumping forward 132 years, our bank has two major missions, the private bank and its wealth management services and the bank specializing in services to expatriates, the French abroad and foreigners in France. Since the 30s we have had French diplomats abroad as clients and represent personnel from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the cultural, defense and other sectors of French professionals and businessmen abroad."
Bruno Julien-Laferrière points out that "over the past 20 years we have concentrated on developing our services to the private sector, signing agreements with the human resources departments of major French companies aboard for financial, fiscal, legal and services for expatriates. The United States is a very important focal point for us naturally." In 1994 the Banque Transatlantique opened its Washington, DC branch working largely with diplomats and international institutions. In 2008 it opened another branch in New York City to reach the business and French community there under the direction of Pascal Le Coz.
"We have developed a core of corporate and private clients between France and the US for expatriates" the banker stresses. "In France we have more and more up-scale private American clients who live here either year round on for part of the year, and are often interested in purchasing real estate or other services. They are very cosmopolitan francophiles. Jean-Frédéric Werup is head of our US Desk created to serve this clientele. Our people are completely bilingual and know very well the fiscal regulations of both the US and France and will be there for the long run and not change after a year or two. This is very reassuring for our top level clients living in France."
With the evolving legislation in France concerning philanthropy, Banque Transatlantique has also been innovative in developing services for its private clients. "We created the fond de dotation Transatlantique. Our fund (similar to an endowment fund) is a very useful tool to provide a structure for our clients who wish to support causes that are important to them, whether they be cultural, in sports, or for medical research."
"We make this possible by providing the legal and fiscal structure and managing the fund – but the projects are entirely selected by our clients. Our fund continues to grow and has proved quite successful" he adds. "Vincent Joulia, well-known to French Heritage Society due to Banque Transatlantique's corporate support for the association, works on this aspect of the bank's services."
"There is without a doubt a generational change taking place in France with respect to philanthropy" Bruno Julien-Laferrière points out. "We see many successful businessmen and women in their 50s and early 60s who want to do more than just transmit their patrimony to their heirs. They would like to give back in a broader sense to causes they support – and in this they are influenced by Americans such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet who have set the example for entrepreneurs throughout the world. They sensitize people to take responsibility for affecting society at large. Our role is to aid the large fortunes in France to structure a means to give and to encourage them in this endeavor. We are seeing an evolution in mentality where corporate leaders and individuals increasingly want to give to causes that are important to them" he notes.
The headquarters of the Banque Transatlantique, located on avenue Franklin Roosevelt in the center of the Golden Triangle near the Champs-Elysées was recently classified as a Historic Monument. "Built by Joseph Marrast in 1929 on the site of what was the private townhouse of a very celebrated couturier, Paul Poiret" Bruno Julien-Laferrière indicates with a gesture, "this townhouse became our headquarters and features absolutely fabulous architecture.
We wanted to protect the building, both the façade seen from the street and the interior, especially the beautiful original Art Deco interiors and furnishings. This building was constructed to be a bank and it is still a bank today. For us, a traditional bank with a long history, this allows us to have a link between the past and the future. We felt it was our duty to uphold those traditions and this architectural heritage. We are a bank heavily invested in new technologies. I think it is important to have a modern bank but that retains links to its history through this building which is a pure Art Deco gem" he concludes with pride.
"I would like to thank Denis de Kergorlay who is a friend, and represents French Heritage Society with enthusiasm and passion" the banker states. "We are proud to have been associated with your 30th Anniversary Celebration along with the magnificent company Hermès for the reception at the Hôtel de Ville de Paris. Beyond that, I think that the Banque Transatlantique shares many values with French Heritage Society. First of all, the passion for Franco-American relations, always very rich, at times complicated but full of promise and shared history. We have always had an American culture, a connection with that vast country and are very appreciative of the interest that Americans have for France and for its heritage."
"Banque Transatlantique and French Heritage Society also share the values of exigency, protection and respect for the patrimony" he continues, "developing culture exchanges between our two countries while at the same time looking toward the future. Our two institutions have a wonderful history with shared passions but are both anchored in modern times and look toward the future. I would also like to thank Michèle Imhoff, Co-Chairman of the Washington Chapter, along with her husband Jean-Louis, as partners and very important friends of the Banque Transatlantique for a very long time in Washington" he concludes, once again bringing the bank full circle back to its ties across the Atlantic.