French bank offers "disco"-style branch makeover

Fri Dec 3, 2010 1:12pm EST
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By Lionel Laurent

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - French bank BNP Paribas has poured 5 million euros ($6.60 million) into a makeover of its flagship branch opposite Paris' Garnier Opera House, even as market jitters linger over the health of euro zone banks.

Purple shag-pile carpets, a glitzy silver hexagon-patterened ceiling and a wall covered with green shrubs are just some of the decorations adorning the re-opened branch, which has iPads on display and a kids' corner with walls to scrawl upon.

"It's too luxurious...Our taxes may not have paid for it but our fees did," said Nouraï, a 40-year-old hotel manager who has used the branch for 15 years. She described the array of Austin Powers-style colors as "a bit disco" and said the 60s-style makeover would not be fashionable in a few years' time.

The average cost of a standard bank branch in Paris is 300,000 euros, according to Stephane Court, of Equinox Consulting. "BNP's store, at 2,600 euros per square meter, is pretty expensive, but then again this is a completely new kind of branch," he said.

BNP, which has repaid state aid received during the financial crisis, has seen its share price lose 13 percent since a resurgence in fears over euro zone debt began in mid-September. The stock has lost nearly half its value since pre-crisis highs.