The best banks in France: Detailed guide


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  1. Introduction
  2. Different types of banks in France
    1. Brick-and-mortar banks
    2. Online banks
  3. Best conventional banks in France
    1. BNP Paribas
    2. Société Générale
  4. Best cooperative banks in France
    1. Crédit Agricole
    2. BPCE Group
    3. Crédit Mutuel
  5. Best online banks in France
    1. Boursorama Banque
    2. Monabanq and Fortuneo
  6. Alternative banking services

According to the French Banking Federation (FBF), there are 330 banking (or credit) institutions in France. Which one should you choose for your business? How do you identify the best bank for opening an account? And which bank would be the safest in the event of a crisis? This article about French banking institutions addresses the best conventional, cooperative, and online banks in 2023.

What’s in this article?

  • Different types of banks in France
  • Best conventional banks in France
  • Best cooperative banks in France
  • Best online banks in France
  • Alternative banking services

Different types of banks in France

There are several types of credit institutions within the French banking system: conventional banks, cooperative banks, online banks, neobanks, and public banks. Each bank either has brick-and-mortar branches or an online terminal (or both).

Brick-and-mortar banks

Conventional banks such as BNP Paribas and Société Générale are listed in the stock market and owned by their shareholders.

For their part, cooperative banks belong to their members (often bank customers) and manage their operations along cooperative principles, creating a democratic environment that furthers the interests of their members. The mutual-savings and cooperative banks in France include Crédit Agricole, Crédit Mutuel, Banque Populaire, and Caisse d’Épargne.

La Banque Postale (a wholly owned subsidiary of La Poste) and the Caisses de Crédit Municipal are public (meaning state-owned) banking institutions.

Online banks

Online banks are also widespread in France. These are often subsidiaries of conventional banks, and they offer banking services that are fully electronic but equivalent to those offered by conventional banks. As these banks do not have any brick-and-mortar branches, they are only accessible online via a browser or a mobile app. Such online banks include Boursorama Banque, Monabanq, Fortuneo, and BforBank.

The term “neobank” is used to describe credit institutions that have been authorized by the French Prudential Supervisory and Resolution Authority (ACPR) to operate as banks. Note that the services of neobanks are only accessible via mobile apps, and that they do not always allow customers to deposit cash or checks. To check the authorization status of a neobank, please view the list of institutions authorized by the ACPR to operate in banking and finance.

Best conventional banks in France

Now let’s look at the best conventional banks in France. These include two banking institutions with an international scope and that are respected throughout the world—BNP Paribas and Société Générale. This classification is mainly based on the following criteria: worldwide operations, international and local credibility, and range of products offered.

BNP Paribas

In 2023, BNP Paribas was identified as the best bank in the world for sustainable finance and finance in general by the magazine Euromoney and commended by the magazine IFR (International Financing Review). It is one of the most reliable banks in France, boasting 200 years of service to private customers and businesses. The global operations of this bank enables its customers to use a banking model that is integrated with world markets.

BNP also offers a complete range of services: business financing, brokerage, mergers and acquisitions advice, and wealth and asset management. It is recognized for its investment banking services and its financing of the energy transition, which is aimed at giving businesses an incentive to make sustainable and environmentally responsible investments. Its market capitalization in 2023 was €71.82 billion.

Société Générale

Société Générale is a renowned banking institution that has been active in France for over 150 years. Like BNP Paribas, Société Générale offers a wide range of financial services, including investment banking and finance, and it commands respect in France and elsewhere. In terms of assets, it is the third largest French bank (with 25 million customers), after BNP Paribas (60 million) and Crédit Agricole (53 million). The services of Société Générale are tailored to the needs of all businesses, from microenterprises to multinational corporations.

Best cooperative banks in France

Crédit Agricole, BPCE (Banque Populaire, Caisse d’Epargne Group), and Crédit Mutuel are some of the favorite banks of French customers. They stand apart from their competitors through their regional presence and the strength of their cooperative model, which addresses the needs of private customers and businesses alike.

Crédit Agricole

Crédit Agricole is a cooperative bank that operates over 39 regional entities in the country. Through its network of regional banks, Crédit Agricole is in a position to set up stable and lasting relationships with its local customers. The bank offers a complete range of services suited to the needs of businesses, while its cooperative mutual-savings operates in 46 countries. As of January 2024, its market capitalization was greater than that of Société Générale: €40.53 billion compared to €18.83 billion.

BPCE Group

Over the years, Banque Populaire of the BPCE Group has become a faithful partner of French businesses thanks to its regional presence and the genuine and long-standing commitment of its staff to its customers. Today, close to 30% of French businesses—mainly very small and small and medium-sized businesses—turn to Banque Populaire to support them as they make their digital, energy, and social transition.

Crédit Mutuel

Crédit Mutuel customers are satisfied with their bank: this democratic banking institution has been the favorite bank of French customers, ranking 13th in the list of French companies with the best image according to the November 2023 Posternak Ifop barometer. The cooperative model of Crédit Mutuel gives customers and members the feeling of being involved in the operating of their bank and in the development of efficient customer services.

Best online banks in France

To identify the best online banks in 2023, we need to look at those that follow the same regulations as conventional banks (i.e., those that have ACPR approval and are supported by a conventional bank). Boursorama Banque, Monabanq, and Fortuneo are secure online banks that are very appealing to the public since they offer inexpensive banking services with payment insurance.

Boursorama Banque

Boursorama Banque, a subsidiary of Société Générale, was elected the second best bank in France in 2023 by the US magazine Forbes (followed by Monabanq and Fortuneo—also online banks), on the basis of an independent survey conducted with Statista. It offers business insurance called Bourso Protect Pro, and an advanced mobile payment terminal that is recommended by its users. Its online banking services are well suited to the needs of very small businesses.

Monabanq and Fortuneo

For their part, Monabanq (subsidiary of Crédit Mutuel Alliance Fédérale) and Fortuneo (subsidiary of Crédit Mutuel Arkéa) offer virtually free services (or even free services in regard to Fortuneo), making them popular among private customers and self-employed people. They allow customers to save the standard banking charges applied by conventional institutions. To compare the banking charges of credit institutions, you can use the tool provided by the French Consultative Committee for the Financial Sector (CCSF).

Alternative banking services

There are several alternatives for banks when it comes to securing business finance. You could turn to an incubator or an angel investor, or even approach a voluntary organization that offers microcredit or loans, such as Association pour le Droit à l’Initiative Économique (Adie). Alternatively, you could approach an investment fund and secure over €250,000 (up to €5 million) through your partnership.

Stripe also offers a variety of banking services to businesses. With the advanced Stripe Issuing application programming interface (API), businesses can obtain services for creating, issuing, and distributing tailored payment cards for their customers. Businesses are also invited to take part in the management of co-branded bank cards by setting their own spending limit and customizing the card design. To discover all the banking services offered by Stripe, please contact one of our experts.

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