Private and public banks: what are the differences?

PRACTICAL – The development of private banks in recent years has led some potential customers to question their specificities, particularly compared to public banks.

The banking sector has been booming in recent years. The French, traditionally quite conservative in managing their money, are increasingly seduced by formulas that differ from their traditional bank. In addition to the rise of , two other models stand out for their very different profiles: public banking and private banking.

What is a public bank?

A public bank is a banking institution whose capital is majority owned by the State or by public actors. Public banks are distinguished from private banks, cooperative banks or commercial banks by their shareholder structure. In addition to banking missions, they are also responsible for carrying out, in their sector of activity, the missions entrusted to them by public authorities. Among the public banks that can be found in France, one naturally thinks of La Banque Postale, but which retains its mission of public service, but also of the Caisse des dépôts et consignations, the municipal savings and credit cooperatives (called more familiarly by the past monts-de-piété), or even the BPI France Public Investment Bank, aimed at supporting small and medium-sized enterprises.

What is a private bank?

Private banking is a special banking structure intended for the wealthiest customers. These top-level establishments are specialized in the management of important banking assets, providing their clients with personalized legal and tax support. There are two main types of private banks: those whose statutes are affiliated with a generalist network (Société Générale, BNP Paribas, LCL or Natixis, for example, offer private banking), and those specialized solely in the management of large assets. If the former are somewhat less elitist than the latter, these two models are based on portfolios[…]


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