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If you’re a French expat in the UK, or if you’re a Brit who’s been living in France and plan on returning to Britain, you might be wondering about French banks in the UK, including the services on offer and where to find a branch.
While several major French banks do offer services in the UK, the reality is that most French banking products in the UK are tailored to corporate and institutional customers, and high wealth individuals looking to invest. If you’re looking to open a French bank account in the UK as a personal customer, you may be better off checking out an alternative service like Wise. We’ll cover all this and more, including a look at which French banks are in the UK, and what products and services they provide.
So, the most important question:Are there French banks in the UK?
While there are several major French banks which have offices and services available in the UK, they do tend to focus the products on offer towards business and corporate customers. This means that for personal customers, opening a bank account in the UK with a French bank can be a bit trickier. We’ll walk through the French banks in the UK one by one next, plus a look at a smart alternative to opening a bank account in the UK with a French bank: Wise.
BNP Paribas¹ has 21 offices in the UK, offering services to business and corporate customers. With a 150 year history in the UK, BNP Paribas is one of the most well established French banks in the UK, with services across capital markets, securities services, advisory, finance and treasury.
Societe Generale² has a UK presence, plus some services are available through Societe Generale partner companies and affiliates. Options include corporate and investment banking, securities services, equipment finance, fleet management, and transaction management for corporate customers³. Private banking services are also available through Societe Generale’s partnership with Kleinwort Hambros⁴, and aimed at high wealth individuals, trusts, families, charities and similar, looking to invest.
Credit Agricole’s services in the UK are through its Corporate and Investment bank arm⁵. Options include global investment banking, international trade and transaction banking and financing for business customers.
Credit Mutuel⁶ makes over 20% of its income in international markets, through subsidiaries. In the UK, services are offered through CIC London⁷. The focus of CIC is on businesses and corporates, with offers including acquisition finance, asset based lending, corporate finance, project finance and private debt solutions.
Natixis⁸ is present in the UK through its London branch and offers mergers and acquisition services through a partnership with Fenchurch Advisory Partners. Investment banking services are available to corporations, financial institutions, financial sponsors and family offices, including strategic financing advice.
If you’re based in France you’ll be able to open a bank account with a French bank pretty easily. However, if you don’t have a French residential address you’ll usually find it harder to get an account arranged.
The good news is that this doesn’t mean you’re out of options if you want a euro account you can open and operate from the UK. Some UK banks - such as Starling Bank⁹ - do offer euro accounts, although there may be some limitations on the services available. Another smart choice is to open a euro account with a digital specialist service, like Wise.
Open a Wise account online or from the Wise app, upload a snap of your ID and proof of address from the UK, France, or any other supported country, and you’re ready to go once your account is verified. Here’s what you can do with Wise:
- Send money to over 80 countries around the world, with fees from 0.41%¹⁰
- Hold and exchange more than 50 currencies, including pounds and euros
- Switch between currencies at the mid-market exchange rate
- Get a Wise card to make purchases in over 170 countries worldwide
- Receive payments from over 30 countries using local bank details provided by Wise
If you need to send a payment in euros to the UK, to be received in pounds, you could be better off using Wise compared to using a bank. Wise uses the mid-market exchange rate, with fast delivery times and low, transparent fees. And because you can open a Wise account from more or less anywhere, you can get set up whether you’re currently living in the UK, France or elsewhere.
See Which Countries Can I Use Wise In for list of authorised countries
Let’s take a look at how Wise compares against some major European banks for sending a payment from euros to pounds. In this example, we’re sending 250 EUR to an account in the UK, to be received in GBP:
|Provider||Transfer fee||Exchange rate||Recipient gets:|
|Wise||3 EUR||1 EUR = 0.873 GBP||215.63 GBP|
|Rabobank||16 EUR||1 EUR = 0.866124 GBP||202.67 GBP|
|Sabadell||22 EUR||1 EUR = 0.847422 GBP||193.21 GBP|
|CaixaBank||27 EUR||1 EUR = 0.853044 GBP||190.23 GBP|
Transfer fees and exchange rates correct at time of research - 8/05/2023
As you can see, in this example, your recipient gets more with Wise compared to making an overseas payment with a bank. Next time you need to send or spend in euros, or any of the other 50+ currencies supported by Wise, compare the costs to see if you can save.
- BNP Paribas
- Societe Generale
- Societe Generale businesses in the UK
- Kleinwort Hambros
- Credit Agricole
- Crédit Mutuel
- Starling Bank
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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