Retail banking: more women in management

Since the end of 2018, 4 women have risen to the top of the retail banking divisions of 4 major groups: BNP Paribas, Société Générale, La Banque Postale and BPCE. Generally speaking, more and more women are taking up management positions in the banking sector, even if there is still some way to go.

Several women appointed to head retail banking divisions

Banking is one of the industries with the highest proportion of women. According to figures from the French Banking Federation, women accounted for 57% of employees and 48% of managers in 2020.

Women managers were not legion, but things seem to be changing. In the space of 3 years, 4 women have been appointed to senior positions, heading up the retail banking divisions of major groups.

At the end of 2018, Christine Fabresse was appointed to the Management Board of BPCE, where she is responsible for retail banking and insurance. In April 2019, Marguerite Bérard took over as head of French retail banking at BNP Paribas.

Since June 2019, the head of Societe Generale's retail banking activities has been occupied by Marie-Christine Ducholet, who succeeded Laurent Goutard. Finally, in March 2021, Marion Rouso was appointed CEO of La Banque Postale's retail banking division, as well as deputy CEO of the consumer and digital business.

Things are also changing at the Banques Populaires and Caisses d'Epargne regional mutuals, whose management teams have been massively reshuffled in 2021, with a total of one-third of senior managers being replaced.

Of the 10 outgoing directors, 9 were men. 4 women have taken over, bringing to 6 the number of women directors of regional caisses, out of a total of 28 establishments. Crédit Mutuel Arkéa has been headed by Hélène Bernicot since 2020.

When will a French bank be run entirely by a woman?

The feminization of bank management bodies has been supported by Christine Lagarde since she became head of the European Central Bank in 2019. She is campaigning for the accession of women to management positions at the ECB, where they are still far from being in the majority, despite representing 45% of the institution's 3,800 employees.

A plan has been put in place to reserve at least 50% of management positions for women until 2026, which would mean that between 40% and 51% of management positions would be held by women by that date.

On the other hand, in corporate and investment banking, men are by far the majority, despite the presence of a few rare women, such as Anne-Christine Champion, Global Co-Head of Global Corporate Banking at Natixis.

And yet, according to Christine Lagarde and a number of researchers, including Michel Ferrary, a researcher affiliated to Skema Business School, the more women there are on bank management teams, the better the performance of these establishments.

At present, no French bank is headed entirely by a woman. In Europe, only 3 banks are: Spain's Santander, Royal Bank of Scotland and Norway's DNB.

The Rixain law, adopted in May 2021, should help move the lines. It requires large companies, with over 1,000 employees, to have at least 30% women in the top 10% of positions by 2027, with this minimum percentage rising to 40% by 2030.

To convince even the most reluctant, a fine equivalent to 1% of payroll will be imposed on companies that fail to meet quotas.