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CCF’s purchase/acquisition of HSBC France

CCF’s purchase / acquisition of HSBC France

Are you one of the many clients concerned with CCF’s purchase/acquisition of HSBC France? As of January 1st, 2024, Credit Commercial de France (CCF) has taken over HSBC France’s retail banking operations, leaving many unsure what the future holds, especially if you are a U.S. expat.

Why did HSBC sell its French retail banking business?

To many, HSBC’s decision to sell all its French retail banking came as a surprise, considering it was always seen as a more “international” bank. But unfortunately, in terms of business, HSBC has not been very successful in recent years, and HSBC current CEO Noel Quinn has decided a strategic shift to its more lucrative Asian operations. HSBC has already sold most of its U.S. retail business, and it will finalize the sale of its Canadian operations to the Royal bank of Canada this year. Rumors are currently circulating that it will do the same with its German and Russian business as well. HSBC will keep a presence in Europe, but only for wholesale banking operations as well as wealth and private banking business. In the end, the decision to sell their French retail operations to CCF was seen as the best way to establish a smooth transition for its customers and staff members.

A little historical background

This acquisition may just seem like another bank takeover in the current trend of bank mergers, but this story is a little bit more complicated – even by French standards. Many American and foreigners don’t know that CCF was originally founded in France in 1917, and was for a long time a prominent player in French banking. In fact, CCF was listed as one of the top 6 names in banking in a recent poll of French people over 45 years old. But funny enough, it was HSBC who bought CCF in 2000 in their previous plan of expanding its global presence and customer base. When it absorbed all of CCF 650 branches in 2006, it provided HSBC with a strong foothold in the French market. 

However, in 2021, Cerberus Capital Management, an American private equity and global investing firm, made the decision to buy HSBC’s French retail operations. Upon the purchase, the new owners decided to leverage its existing network and reputation by opting for the CCF brand name, ironically turning the tables on HSBC, and it’s finally the lamb who became the lion. 

So, what does CCF’s acquisition of HSBC France mean for US expat customers?

In the short-term, it doesn’t seem like much will change for the end customers. CCF has confirmed that all the retail accounts will transfer over to CCF with new RIBs and IBANs, and a new website and app for internet banking. CCF assured that they would take care of automatic payments, but there’s already been enough problems with this passover that it warrants verifying that all automatic deposits and payments are going through.

Another problem is the long timeline for CCF to switch over their ATMs, leaving many local branches waiting for their cash machines to get back online. In addition, the employee unions claim that CCF plans also to phase out three quarters of their fleet of ATMs, counting on customers to use other bank’s cash points which could be impractical for the customers.

What does the future look like?

In the longer term, CCF has announced that they want to position itself as a more upscale bank, aiming towards professional and “higher-end” clients, by providing more qualitative rather than quantitative customer service. In addition, a CCF spokesperson assured that they would keep their English speaking advisors as well as a dedicated international branch.

However, don’t expect CCF to have the same international vision of the former HSBC. The rebranding to the CCF name signifies a renewed effort to establish itself as a prominent player within the French market itself. This move is in-sync with the group’s former CEO Eric Shehadeh’s sentiment that “a key part of our plan is to be a French player on the French market, and not a generic international brand.” 

If we dig a little further and look at what happened to Cerberus’s previous bank purchases we can also expect some restructuring in order to get the bank’s business back on track. With CCF’s claim to focus on local branches and their decision to retain the 800,000 customers and 3,500 workers, it will be interesting to see how this business strategy aligns with their objectives. Right now there hasn’t been a clear roadmap as union official Eric Poyet has pointed out, “we will transfer towards a company where we don’t have any clear commercial or strategic plan.”

What does this mean for U.S. expat customers?

The impact of your relationship with the new CCF will depend most heavily on your existing relationship with the bank. If you have just simple checking or savings accounts, there probably won’t be much change besides a new website and a new bank card.

But things could be more complicated if you are holding other types of accounts or investment products such as “Assurance Vie” – which are not recommended for US citizens due to tax and reporting issues . Under HSBC, wealth management and insurance products were often managed through separate agreements, so they might require additional attention during the transition.

Offer yourself some peace of mind

If you are overwhelmed by your cross-border finances, an advisor from Harrison Brook can simplify the process. Our advisors possess the expertise to guide U.S. expats in France through financial decisions, and optimize your investments while ensuring compliance with all relevant regulations.  Gain peace of mind and schedule a meeting with a Harrison Brook advisor today.

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