French banker Philippe Souviron got his parachute wings when he was 20, but it took him another three decades to make what may be his most momentous jump.

In mid-December, Mr. Souviron announced he would become chairman of Bankers Trust (France) SA, a unit of Bankers Trust New York Corp., after a 27-year career with Credit Lyonnais.

Mr. Souviron, 50, was one of the most senior officers at the Paris-based bank, which was ranked 10th in the world at yearend 1990, with #287 billion in assets. He was a member of the executive committe and executive vice president in charge of capital markets, money management, and merchant banking.

Responsible for Merchant Banking in France

He is taking responsibility for Bankers Trust's French merchant banking business and for development of corporate finance capabilities.

Mr. Souviron discounted speculation that either money or policy differences with Credit Lyonnais' chairman, Jean Yves Haberer, were behind the move.

"It was purely personal decision," Mr. Souviron said. "After 27 years with the bank, I had the feeling that there weren't any jobs left for me to move on to."

He added that the possibility of doing something new, rather than making more money, also prompted him to accept the Bankers Trust offer, which came in November.

"It was not the first offer I've had, but it was the first exciting offer to come from an institution that I felt I was capable of joining," said Mr. Souviron.

Snapping up Mr. Souviron is very much a coup for Bankers Trust. High-level defections are extremely rare among the big Paris banks, which are highly prestigious and state-owned.

Mr. Souviron is one of several senior officers Bankers Trust has recently recruited overseas as part of a plan to add qualified local executives to expanding businesses. Among the others have been Angel Althonzano, hired to head the company's operations in Spain, and Lino Carderelli, doing the same in Italy.

Bankers Trust has offices in Paris, London, Madrid, Zurich, Geneva, Frankfurt, Budapest, Prague, Warsaw, and Milan, Italy, and now gets about 25% of its earning from Europe.

Training at Ecole Polytechnique

Mr. Souviron, who hails from the city of Pau in souther France, is a graduate of the prestigious Ecole Polytechnique, a military school where his required training included a stint as a paratrooper.

He joined Credit Lyonnais in 1964 and rose steadily. He headed the Paris bank's unit in Spain from 1965 to 1971 before becoming vice president of corporate relations in Paris from 1971 to 1974.

In 1975, he was named head of merchant banking; in 1977, head of branch operations in western Paris; in 1979, head office manager; and from 1984 to 1986, he worked in New York as senior vice president for the United States.

Mr. Souviron said he has yet to develop a plan for building Bankers Trust's French business but added that he "won't lack ammunition."

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