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On 1 August 1914, President Poincaré signed the general mobilisation order. The French authorities took various measures in the name of National Defence, some of them unpopular, which impacted the entire banking sector. In Paris and throughout France, banks faced a deluge of withdrawal requests. To curb hoarding and to cover the expenses intrinsic to a state of war, the French government ordered a moratorium, that is, the suspension of debt repayments, which included cash deposits and personal bank accounts. Thus began a wartime economy increasingly aimed at promoting business recovery through less restrictive legislation. The state of war caused a sharp downturn in business. In the face of the advancing German troops, banks primarily sought to protect their employees and secure their assets, all the more because the enemy was threatening communications and had begun carrying out confiscations and requisitions on the front lines in order to meet its needs. The breadth of the physical destruction in the North and East of France bears testimony to the resolve of the warring parties and to the might of modern war weaponry. Employees in the banking profession were not spared by events. In addition to an increased workload tied to the mobilisation of approximately two-thirds of the male workforce, banking personnel also bore the brunt of a rising cost of living, stagnant wages and the lack of supplies. In the occupied areas, people suffered the horrors of a military occupation and were continuously exposed to artillery fire. Like other businesses, banks relied heavily on women workers to ensure business continuity. In May 1917, as the war settled into a bloody stalemate, bank employees rallied together when a series of strikes erupted in the industrial, financial and insurance sectors, providing them with the opportunity to unite and make their claims heard.

Adapting to war Wartime banking services

Crédit Lyonnais Securities Services Facility, 1910.

Although women s employment rose sharply during the war, female employees were already working in banking institutions, particularly in certain departments, as in this one: the Crédit Lyonnais Securities Services Facility.

Crédit Agricole S.A., Historical Archives Department, Crédit Lyonnais Collection.