Sibos 2020: BNP Paribas chairman says COVID-19 “not a banking crisis”

The COVID-19 pandemic is not a financial crisis due to the action and reaction of banks, regulators and underlying infrastructure operators.

Jean Lemierre spoke at this weeks Sibos 2020 event

That’s the opinion of BNP Paribas chairman of the board of directors, Jean Lemierre. Speaking at the virtual Sibos 2020 conference this week, Lemierre says COVID-19 remains a major health crisis, but the finance sector is solid.

“This is not a crisis in banking or a financial crisis. It has an economic impact, but so far the financial sector has done its job.”

Lemierre says the industry isn’t close to a situation akin to the global financial crisis of 2008. “This is maybe due to the work we have done over the last ten years.”

The BNP Paribas chairman outlines two main concerns which banks had. The first was the wellbeing of their clients.

“That was a time of massive disruption. [There was] no business, fewer income, and massive difficulties in the corporate sector. Markets were shut down for some time, there was no access to liquidity.

“Companies had a massive need for liquidity and in Europe we had balance sheets to offer liquidity. That was crucial. When you offer liquidity to large companies they pay their suppliers, then employees, and the economy survives.”


Lemierre says the second priority was, and remains, underlying payments infrastructure.

“People don’t understand that behind the machines, behind the banks, behind the shops, there is a strong efficient infrastructure to make sure that payments can be done.

“As far as I know there was no disruption. This is remarkable at a time of massive crisis. People see these things as so obvious and so normal, they do not acknowledge the efficiency of the system.”

He saves special praise for the “official sector”. “Central banks have done a good job, regulators have taken appropriate measures […] and governments and fuelled spending.

“This is probably the first time I have seen such teamwork between the working sector and the official sector. Working together like this, we shall be able to address the challenges in the months and years to come.”

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