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The development of accounting machines in French banks from the 1920s to the 1960s

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French banks faced severe organisational problems in the 1910s and 1920s when the scale of their operations grew dramatically as a result of the broadening of the customer base among personal investors and of the boom in discount activities, both of which required increased levels of bookkeeping. In the meanwhile, due to inflation and trade-union pressure, wages had increased. This led to French banks adopting a strategy of sharing information with German banks, which already seem to have developed the process of mechanising bookkeeping operations. Knowledge exchanges were set up with German (and Belgian) bankers so as to accelerate the transfer of organisation (re-engineering) skills and data-processing. Banks in the Alsace region were pioneers in this movement; but several big banks did not wait long before introducing a policy of investing in machines and new platforms for tackling dataprocessing. The 1920s and the 1930s thus represent a key stage in the transformation of French banks into actual service 'organisations'.

Keywords: Banks; accounting machines; computer history; data processing; firms' organisation; services

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 2004

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