Everyone knows the Savings Bank and its booklet A. Savings banks appeared at the start of the 19th century when certain business circles became aware of the limits of economic liberalism. The first establishment opened its doors at 19 rue du Louvre in Paris, in a mansion that now retains a beautiful council room, a sculpted facade and door tops bearing the arms of the first owner.
A private mansion predestined for finance
Baron Thoinard de Vougy, general farmer, that is to say tax collector under Louis XV, had a superb private mansion built in 1730, decorated with gilding and paintings, at 9 rue Coq-Héron. His son-in-law became the first president of the court of accounts and between 1786 and 1798, and the hotel was inhabited by the director of indirect taxes.
The concept of savings and provident insurance was born during the Age of Enlightenment; a banker by the name of Delessert launched in 1787 the "Royal Life Insurance Company", of which he held the position of director, offering several insurance formulas. Among the shareholders and directors, we find well-known and renowned figures such as Condorcet, Talleyrand, Mirabeau.
As the Revolution was not far away and the public had other concerns, this company was dissolved in 1793, but it can be considered as the ancestor of the Caisse d´Epargne.
Under the Directory and the Empire, the Enfantin brothers set up a bank in this mansion.
The creation of the Paris savings bank
In May 1818, on the English model, Baron Benjamin Delessert (son of the previous one) associated with the Duke of La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt decided to open, still in the same place, an institution called Caisse d´Epargne. It will aim to encourage popular savings, but the public must be educated on the merits of managing their money well in times of difficult economic conditions. The baron said "let's try to make the people understand the benefits, we can almost say the miracles, of the economy" before giving savers the famous savings book where the payments and the interest are registered, in fact the ancestor. of our booklet A.
The founders of the Paris Savings Bank asked the State to guarantee and disseminate this form of savings reserved for the least privileged fraction of the population. Passbook deposits were then invested in state annuities, presenting little risk and offering good remuneration.
This establishment is first of all private, constituted as a public limited company, the founders of which are bankers such as Laffitte, governor of the Banque de France, administrators of the Royal Maritime Insurance Company ”or even Baron de Staël, small son of Necker.
In July of the same year, Louis XVIII authorized the existence of the "société anonyme formed in Paris under the name of Caisse d´Epargne et de Prévoyance", but the expected success was slow in coming!
Institutionalization of savings banks
In 1835, the state intervened and guaranteed deposits to the Royal Treasury, paid a fixed interest, then entrusted management to the Caisse des Dépôts and declared the savings banks "private establishments of public utility". A law of 1835 gave savings banks public utility status. In 1881, the Post Office was authorized to found the National Savings Bank, domiciled in each post office. Since then, savings banks have drained savings, which they reinject into the local economy. With these transformations, the confidence of savers returns and increases. So much so that 12 years later, France still has 364 Caisses d'Epargne in the country.
In July 1895, the Caisses d´Epargne had to submit to the law indicating that the principle of the use of funds was that of state funds. In addition, they must constitute a special and additional reserve fund, called "personal wealth" in addition to the mandatory reserve receiving excess income to cover capital losses. This “personal fortune” is made up of donations, subsidies and the balance between the interest received and the amounts paid to depositors. This additional reserve will be used to finance social housing, baths and showers, works of national solidarity, social hygiene, assistance or charity.
The Caisses d´Epargne also participate in the life of communities and public bodies by granting them loans. We can therefore say that these savings played a large role in the financing of the national economy.
After the war, almost all households held a passbook ... but this institution almost never saw the light of day, because it was authorized, like the banks, to participate in speculative activities ...
- Savings Bank Booklet (1818-2008), by Séverine de Coninck. Economica, 2012.
- The savings bank: Solution to the social question. CIPP, 2015.