Australia and New Zealand look back on 140 years of looking forward

BNP Paribas' Head of Territory for Australia and New Zealand, Karine Delvallée, discusses the milestones and next steps for the Group as it turns 140.

In 1881, Comptoir d’Escompte de Paris opened two Australian offices, one in Melbourne (5 February) and one in Sydney (3 March). This year, BNP Paribas Australia and New Zealand is celebrating their longstanding commitment to the local economy and community. BNP Paribas’ Head of Territory, Karine Delvallée, discusses the milestone and what’s next for the Group locally.

Why was BNP Paribas set up in Australia and New Zealand?

Comptoir d’Escompte de Paris was responding to client’s requests. After international exhibitions held in Melbourne and Sydney during 1879 and 1880, it was clear that clients would benefit from new financing for Australian wool imports into France. Prior to 1881, the factories in the north of France had to make their wool purchases in London and the clear intention was to buy the Australian wool in Australia and ship it directly to France.


Source: History BNP Paribas

What have been some of the most impactful events for the Bank in your Territory?

There’s the acquisitions and name changes, like when Comptoir d’Escompte de Paris became the Comptoir National d’Escompte de Paris in 1889, or when Société Générale de Banque was taken over by Fortis in 1998; BNL, which took part in the creation of the Australian European Finance Corporation in 1970; and Paribas. Although Paribas’ activities in Australia really started in the 1980s, I find it interesting that in 1901 it had already agreed to finance the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The Group expanded into New Zealand in 1977 with the opening of an office in Wellington. In 1997 an office in Auckland was also opened.

When BNP Paribas was formed in 2000, this merger gave rise to a new drive towards working with large corporations. The global acquisition of the Cogent business gave BNP Paribas Securities Services a strong fund capability and established a securities services presence in Australia and New Zealand. During this time assets under custody and under administration grew from $95 billion in 2002 to $610 billion in 2020.

We’ve remained a major provider of financing to corporate Australia, with a focus on the top 150 companies listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX). An example is our relationship with Qantas Airways, the world’s second oldest airline and an iconic Australian company, known as the ‘Flying Kangaroo’. In 2008, we were appointed to solely arrange and finance the acquisition by Qantas of four Airbus A380s, which won Aircraft Debt Deal of the Year, Australasia, by Jane’s Transport Finance.

Imagine that when you fly into or out of Australia on a Qantas A380, BNP Paribas may have played a part in making that experience possible, and we’re really pleased to still be supporting this truly iconic company.

What makes you proud to be Head of Territory for Australia and New Zealand?

There are a few things.

First, I consider that BNP Paribas in the region, and Australia particularly, is tied to the history of the Australian economy as it found its place as a major trading partner to Europe. I think that our position of being the bank for a changing world, and the depth of our product offering today, reflects the growing importance of the financial services sector in Australia and our commitment to supporting the local economy.


Secondly, we’re now over 600 people across Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Wellington and Auckland, and our employees have ensured the success of the Bank in Australia. Teams have consistently worked to overcome economic and financial difficulties and crises by knowing how to bring together risk mitigation and innovation when changes in economic conditions demand it.

After spending more than a decade in Hong Kong and Singapore, I have been heading the teams across Australia and New Zealand through the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic and I am amazed by the energy and enthusiasm the teams have responded with. Throughout this time, BNP Paribas has had a strong history in the Asia Pacific – in 1860 opening branches in Shanghai and Culcutta and in 1962 in Bombay, Hong Kong and Saigon, and experiencing the different business and cultural opportunities that come with different cultures is interesting to me.

On a personal note, I’m also really proud of being the first female Head of Territory for Australia and New Zealand. I think that by showcasing female leadership in finance we can create a greater pool of role models for girls and young women and I hope that this continues our journey forward to achieve gender equity in the sector.

What’s next for BNP Paribas in Australia and New Zealand?

We’re focused on three priority areas this year, connecting our clients to our innovative solutions, deepening our connections in the Asia Pacific region and beyond, and sustainable financing.

Our unique position of being the leading European bank paired with our strong local footprint and large international network, means that we can provide our Australian and New Zealand clients with access to the world, and support our global clients to develop locally.

In the past six months alone we’ve been recognised for the work we’ve done in supporting Australian companies to expand their financing overseas through our global network, like the delivery of US$3.0 billion Subordinated Hybrid Notes for Scentre Group. BNP Paribas was joint lead manager and the transaction won Australasian-Origin Offshore Corporate Bond Deal of the Year by KangaNews as well as FinanceAsia’s 2020 Achievement Award for Best Hybrid.

We believe that Australia’s connection to the Asia Pacific region will become more pronounced over the coming years, especially as we look to support the region’s recovery from Covid-19. And that there is a strong impetus for companies and governments to rebuild economies better by putting sustainability at the core.

A great example of this was our Project Green Kangaroo a sustainable investment solution we developed to allow investors to align their financial objectives with net zero emission targets, while supporting the financing of low emissions energy transition. To achieve this, we issued a series of equity-linked green bonds totaling A$140million, subscribed by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), Aware Super and QBE Insurance (QBE). The bonds are linked to the first forward-looking climate index in Australia, the Australian Climate Transition Index (ACT Index) and the proceeds will be used to invest in a portfolio of green projects. This contributes to our global goal of doubling our financing to the Renewable Energy sector from €6.9bn in 2014 to €18bn by 2021.

Being the bank for a changing world means improving the way we help our clients while contributing to more sustainable and equitable growth. We want to contribute to this through being part of the conversation and we want to encourage and support our clients on their sustainability journey. But to me this is not just green financing, but all of the aspects that respond to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) risk.

Recently we acted as Joint Bookrunner and Sustainability Co-ordinator for Downer‘s A$1.4 billion Sustainability Linked Loan. This is a unique deal because it encompasses greenhouse gas emissions reductions, but also social sustainability including cultural awareness, mental health, and wellbeing training of Downer employees. KangaNews recognised this deal as an Australian Syndicated Loan Deal of the Year and the Asia Pacific Loan Market Association (APLMA) recognised the deal as the Syndicated Green/Sustainable Deal of the Year. I’m looking forward assisting more of our clients with delivering similar solutions because we continue to see the direct link between ESG improvement and company success.

Our team is experienced and ready, and I’m excited to deliver successes for our clients in our 140th year.


Source: History BNP Paribas