Some bankers go after business with a shotgun. Andre Levy-Lang, chairman of Compagnie Financiere de Paribas, prefers a rifle.
"We take a specialized approach to markets and products," says the 54-year-old French banker. "We go after specific opportunities."
With growth opportunities improving in the United States, the $120 billion-asset Paribas group is moving to expand.
It is targeting the oil, gas, and energy sectors, health care, and municipal finance for everything from credit enhancement to structured finance, capital-market underwritings, and privatizations. Paribas also sees opportunities in Latin America.
Sees Low Productivity in Europe
Mr. Levy-Lang finds the business outlook in the United States far better than in Europe.
"The overall economy may be performing poorly, but the deal flow here is larger," he says. "There have been big improvements in productivity, and the corporate earnings aren't all that bleak."
In contrast, he sees Europe's overall economy as holding up reasonably well, but finds corporate earnings sliding and productivity too low.
As one of a handful of foreign banks grandfathered under the international banking act of 1978 and allowed to do commercial as well as investment banking, Paribas is particularly well positioned to exploit opportunities in the United States. The investment and commercial banking powers allow it to handle a broad array of corporate transactions.
Since many banking products quickly become standardized and margins fall, the French bank's goal is to play a part in complex deals and stay ahead of the pack, Mr. Levy-Lang says.
Studied at Stanford
Born in Egypt, Mr. Levy-Lang was raised in France and trained as an electronics engineer. He holds a doctorate in business administration from Stanford University.
He began his career with France's Atomic Energy Commission, then joined the Schlumberger electronics and engineering conglomerate.
Mr. Levy-Lang entered the field of financial engineering in 1974 by joining Compagnie Bancaire, a specialized finance and consumer lending unit of Paribas. After serving as chairman of Compagnie Bancaire, he became chairman of Compagnie Financiere de Paribas, the parent of Banque Paribas, in 1990.
Experience has left him with an strong aversion to cumbersome corporate bureaucracies. He prefers "specialized teams, coordination, and short reporting lines."