T H E I N T E R-WA R Y E A R S

opportunity to buy into its capital, although these plans had not made much impression on the Belgian and Austrian banks. Banque de Bruxelles, a major competitor of Société Générale de Belgique, was also a shareholder in the Warsaw Bank of Commerce.

Consequently, WBV continued negotiating with Wacław Fajans, Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Finance, with Eugenjusz Singer, head of the WBV branch in Lvov, leading the talks at the Ministry. By now the only item left to discuss with the new Minister was the amount of initial capital. The Ministry of Finance had originally demanded that this should be set at one billion Polish marks but BBE, having started out with a figure of 300 million in mind, was reluctant to go beyond 500 million. A compromise proposal was then tabled to fix the amount of authorised capital at one billion, only half of which would actually be issued when the bank was constituted, and to set a nominal value of 10,000 Polish marks for each issued ordinary share.

In a bid to push for a decision on granting the licence in their favour, in early March 1923 WBV and BBE took the Basler Handelsbank (Commercial Bank of Basel) on board as a partner in their proposed new bank, reasoning that having a Swiss bank on board would stimulate enthusiasm for the venture. On 10 March WBV s Oskar Pollak was finally able to inform BBE that Poland s Minister for Trade had now signed the banking licence for the new establishment.

The founding General Meeting of shareholders of Powszechny Bank Zwiazkowy w Polsce was held in Cracow on 30 June 1923. In addition to its official Polish name, the bank also adopted the French title Société Générale de Banque en Pologne (SGBP) and the German designation Allgemeiner Polnischer Bankverein. BBE took a 25% stake in SGBP, while WBV took 45%, the Basler Handelsbank 5% and various Polish interests subscribed the remaining 25%. The authorised capital was fixed at a billion Polish marks. Two cat- egories of shares were created, A (ordinary) shares and B shares, which conferred mul- tiple voting rights. The A category was intended to be sold to the Polish general public, while B shares were reserved for the founding banks, to enable them to keep control of the bank once the ordinary shares had been taken up by the general public.

Władysław Stesłowicz9 was voted Chairman of the new bank. He then agreed to the appointment of a local management team headed by Wacław Fajans, the man who had negotiated the bank s statutes with WBV and BBE senior management.

It was decided that the bank s registered head office would be in Cracow but for rea- sons pertaining to national issues management of the Eastern Galicia branches was to be located in Lvov. However, the part of Poland which had been Russian before the war, centred on Warsaw, a city of two million inhabitants, boasted vast manufacturing infra-

9. Władysław Stesłowicz (1867-1940) was an influential Polish parliamentarian who served as Minister of Post and Telegraph in the Wincenty Witos government (1920-1921) and was also Secretary-General of the Lvov Chamber of Commerce.

Wacław Fajans, the first Managing Director of SGBP

Waclaw Fajans was born in Warsaw on 28 June 1884 into an old bourgeois family. After studying in Geneva and Bonn (1903-1909), he became a civil servant working for the Provisional Council of State for the Kingdom of Poland as a specialist in financial affairs. From 1918 to 1920 he headed the monetary department at the Treasury and then from 1920-1922 worked as Director-General of Związek Banków w Polsce (the Association of Polish Banks). From 1922-1923 he served as deputy Treasury Minister, representing Poland at the Internation-al Economic Conference in Genoa in 1922.

60