Following the Money

France’s BNP Paribas opens in Miami

BNP Paribas’ securities division establishes a foothold in Miami’s financial district, tapping into the city’s burgeoning status as a global finance hub. With clients including industry heavyweights and a strategic focus on both U.S. and global markets, the move reflects Miami’s evolution from a Latin American finance hub to a key player attracting major financial institutions seeking growth opportunities.

By Doreen Hemlock

Call it a sign of Miami’s rise as a hub for global finance. France-based BNP Paribas, one of Europe’s largest banking groups, has opened an office for its securities division in Miami’s financial district – “mostly because we saw an opportunity, as our clients began to migrate here,” says its Miami office chief Matt O’Connor.

The division’s Miami clients include heavyweights like Citadel, Point 72, and Millenium, among the asset managers, hedge-funds, and others who have set up since the COVID pandemic began in 2020. Those groups moved in seeking lower taxes, slimmer costs, and warmer weather. BNP Paribas’ Miami office handles global markets for clients buying and selling equities, debt, foreign exchange, commodities, and more. Some customers focus more on the U.S. while others focus worldwide, says O’Connor.

Miami long has been a hub for Latin American finance, with many groups opening offices in the area to manage dollars for clients in South and Central America. It’s

become a global player only this decade, as large U.S.-based money-management groups active worldwide moved south from higher-tax New York, Illinois, and California. In 2023, Miami ranked for the first time among the top 25 on the Global Financial Centres Index, published by the Z/Yen Group of London and the China Development Institute of Shenzhen – a ranking that underscores why BNP Paribas opened in the city.

“Where big clients go, banks go,” explains David Schwartz, president of the Financial and International Business Association (FIBA), formerly known as the Florida International Bankers Association. He recalls BNP-Paribas had a Miami office for its private wealth-management unit but closed it in the 2000s amid consolidation in that segment. “Now, the market’s grown, so it’s important that they service their big clients who’ve moved here.”

BNP Paribas, formed in 2000 by the merger of two French banks, has global assets topping 2 trillion euros, with their largest base in Europe. The group employs more than 185,000 in 65 countries. In the U.S., it has some 3,500 employees, with offices in New York, Boston, Denver, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Globally, its revenues topped $45 billion in 2022 and were rising last year, though full-2023 results were not available at press time.

The bank formally opened its 801 Brickell Ave. office in December during Miami Art Week. Leaders from New York and Paris visited, some taking part in talks on the 2024 global outlook during the Scope Miami Beach international contemporary art fair. The office debuted with some 20 employees and aims to reach 50 in two years, part of BNP-Paribas’ goal “to be the No. 1 European bank in the Americas,” O’Connor says.

That expansion builds on growing business ties between Florida and France, including a mission to Paris last June by the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade Country’s economic development group. French businesses already rank “among the top four in foreign employers in Florida, with more than 400 companies and 32,700 jobs created by French companies,” says France’s consul in Miami Raphael Trapp.

For BNP-Paribas’ O’Connor, Miami offers contrasts to his former base in New York. Many in finance in Miami “are thrilled to be at the forefront of a new opportunity,” while folks in long-established NY often feel they “have to be” there. Latin American culture also holds greater sway in Miami business. “We believe that relationships are deeper in Miami, and New York has a more transactional view,” O’Connor adds.

BNP-Paribas’ Miami team aims to recruit locally and is contacting area schools including University of Miami and Florida International. Says O’Connor “We want people to make a career here in Miami.”

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