Home Means of payment Euro story Euro story : the culmination of the euro project  

Euro story : the culmination of the euro project  

21 may 2003

For banks, the euro's arrival into the daily lives of the French population on January 1st 2002 represented the culmination of the extraordinary project that began to take shape at the end of 1997. The switchover to the single currency on the capital markets on January 1st 1999, the development of the book-entry euro in the second half of 2001 and the changeover of nearly all ATMs during the night of December 31st of the same year were unquestionable successes.


At the dawn of 2002, however, banks still had two technical and logistical challenges to face: exchanging French francs into euros within a six-week period; managing the inflow of 1.4 billion notes and, in particular, 7-8 billion coins denominated in francs.

The challenges

Ensuring customer service during an exceptionally busy period

In preparation for the flood of customers into their branches, banks hired 50,000 temporary workers, representing a 12.5% increase in total staff. However, during the first few days of January actual customer numbers exceeded all estimates, with 8 to 10 times more customers visiting bank branches. Most of the transactions were nonetheless carried out smoothly and exceedingly quickly.

Guaranteeing the safety of customers and staff

The transport and storage in branches of an unprecedented volume of French franc coins and notes required exceptional measures. The "euro-security" plan implemented by the authorities, at the request and with the help of the banks, proved effective and dissuasive.

Involment of the banking sector

In order to manage the influx of customers into branches, banks launched a number of communication campaigns. A series of advertisements appeared in the written press, on the radio and in various media published by banks to remind the French population that they had time, to encourage them to make appointments to exchange their francs for euros under optimum conditions of safety and convenience, and to dissuade them from using large notes in stores.

At the same time, for reasons of general security, the banking industry designed and implemented a system to cancel French franc notes by hole-punching them before returning them to the Banque de France. The FBF took charge of the manufacture and distribution of the hole-punching machines, representing an investment of EUR 5.2 millions. Aware that for this system to be dissuasive, it also had to be visible, the FBF initiated a advertising campaign aimed at the general public, highlighting how hole-punched notes were worthless.

A few figures on french banks and the euro

A considerable financial and human investment

> Nearly EUR 5 billion invested by banks in the introduction of the single currency.

>300,000 employees were trained in the changeover to the euro from the end of 1998, with regular "refresher courses".

An operation acclaimed by the French population

> Nearly 9 out of 10 French citizens believe that "banks were successful in the changeover to the euro".

> A high proportion (88%) believe that "the conversion of francs into euros in bank branches went smoothly".

Source : Ireq Survey - July 2002 - sample of 1,000 people.

Top of the page