2020 was unique year in many respects, not least the surprise and suddenness of the worldwide shock caused by the coronavirus and the scale of its health, human and economic impacts.
Against this unprecedented backdrop, the French banking industry demonstrated a deep sense of purpose in carrying out its core duty of serving society. Front and centre since the beginning of the crisis, it acted responsibly with commitment and agility. Rising to the challenge of the health and economic emergency, the banking profession took action to ensure the uninterrupted delivery of the services needed for the country to function. This massive economic support was made possible thanks to the strength of the French banking system, which allowed lending and deposit activities to continue, and the joint creation with the French government of a special tool – the State-Backed Loan. This bridging cash loan, combined with direct public assistance, has yielded tangible results, reflected in the lowest number of bankruptcies in the past 30 years. The banks are part of the solution to tackle this unprecedented health crisis.
Our profession put to work its ability to ensure cohesion for the common good. Whether in the field or working from home, the banking industry’s 360,000 employees were fully mobilised to support all their customers. The crisis underscored the relevance and strength of our local retail banking model in both human and digital terms. Facing a number of very different situations, this model made it possible to meet the expectations of individual, professional and business customers of all sizes through appropriate, customised solutions.
At the same time, 2020 accelerated the use of digital services and tools in which the population is becoming increasingly confident. The digitalisation of banking sector businesses, which has been ongoing for several years, is gaining speed and offering several new uses that vary based on age and need. In a paperless and severely restricted environment, banks are innovating to satisfy their customers’ expectations of service, mobility and heightened security.
Banks are keeping a close eye on a wide range of issues during our economic transformation and on the demands of society. They are taking action to combat climate change and fund the energy transition, while intensifying their efforts to promote banking inclusion, financial literacy and the occupational integration of persons isolated from the world of work.
Our economy is one of sharp contrasts. Some industries have been hard-hit by the crisis while others were naturally called on to deliver solutions, whether through the high-speed digitalisation of business or meeting health needs. Overall, the French economy is holding up well with solid fundamentals. The quality of the financing it provides to the economy and the strength of the banks are two of its greatest assets. We have every reason to continue to feel confident but at the same time realistic about the multiple challenges that lie ahead of us. As such, vigilance is vital to prevent new regulations from hampering the economic recovery of our country and our continent. The French banking industry remains fully engaged and committed to recovery, economic development and social cohesion on a local and national scale.
Annual report FBF – The banking industry 2020