1871, London: the Group's first overseas site
The City of London was the heart and lungs of world finance in 1871, when Societe Generale opened up an office in the British capital, on Leadenhall Street, where it carried out operations with London's merchant banks.
In 1876, it moved into the very heart of the City, first on Lombard Street at first and, in 1893, on Fenchurch Street where it occupied three rooms: an office for the general manager, a room for three boy messengers and a room for some 15 staff. With business developing rapidly, the number of staff increased and Societe Generale changed premises again a number of times.
In 1905, it moved to Old Broad Street, near the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange. It would remain there for the next 80 years. The building fitted perfectly into the surrounding area with its large-windowed façades, its colonnades and its mahogany door. From the main hall, you could get to the Cash Services, Portfolio, Documents and Accounts departments. The Bank began by renting the ground floor, and rapidly spread out. The number of staff jumped from 60 in 1908 to 105 in 1922. After Societe Generale acquired the entire building in 1953, some of the premises were rented out to a Canadian bank, an import-export company. Between 1957 and 1964, the building was extensively renovated and made higher, with the bank taking back much of the office space previously rented out to others. The head offices now had premises that combined traditional charm and modern comfort.
The Group celebrated the centenary of its British presence in May 1971. A dinner and reception were organised at Mansion House by the Lord Mayor of London, in the presence of the Bank's Chairman Jacques Ferronnière, the French Ambassador and the Governor of the Bank of England. A medallion was struck in the effigy of Edward Blount, a British citizen who was one of the founders of Societe Generale and its Chairman from 1886 to 1902.
The speed of the mutations of the 1980s and 1990s resulted in a change in both businesses and tools, as well as an increase in the workforce (almost 1,000 staff in 1996). Societe Generale therefore had to change premises again, moving to Gracechurch Street in 1985 and to Exchange House on Primrose Street in 1995.
Today, Societe Generale London is based in SG House on Tower Hill as well as in Exchange House. Over its 140 years of UK presence, and as its business has developed, the Bank has occupied a number of buildings in London's famous business district.