This article reviews the role of the Banque de France in the economic system and analyzes the importance of financial and extra-financial information in the ecosystem of the real economy.
The evolutions and contributions of private and institutional ratings are presented as well as their limits. The approach is both didactic but also offers a forward-looking reflection on the finance of tomorrow.
The Banque de France is the central bank of France. It is an institution over 200 years old, founded on January 18, 1800 by Napoleon Bonaparte, then First Consul, and independent since 1993.1. It has been part of the Eurosystem since 1998 with the other central banks of the Member States of the euro zone and the European Central Bank (ECB)2. The Eurosystem is the body, the institution of the European Union which manages the euro zone.
Its historical role was the issuance of banknotes, an activity that it has retained. The Banque de France is now established on more than 200 sites in France and has three main missions:
it preserves confidence in the currency: this is the monetary strategy. It finances the economy and maintains price stability. It also lends liquidity to banks;
it ensures financial stability by controlling the activity of banks and insurance companies. It protects the balance of the financial system; this makes it possible to finance the economy with savings, which it also protects. It therefore draws up rules of prudence and ensures that they are respected through a former Independent Administrative Authority (AAI) created especially for this purpose in 2010.3 and that it hosts within it, namely the Prudential Control and Resolution Authority (ACPR);
and it also provides services to the economy, with the provision of analysis tools to help companies in their management and their relationship with banks, especially very small enterprises-small and medium-sized enterprises (TPE-PME ).
The Banque de France rating is a rating that assesses a company’s ability to repay its financial commitments over a period of one to three years.
The term “company” here refers to the 250,000 large companies, medium-sized companies (ETI) and VSEs-SMEs whose data is analyzed by the Banque de France in order to issue an assessment: the Banque de France rating of companies.
The uses of this rating are multiple. However, its primary goal remains to facilitate exchanges between banks and companies, between investors and investees in order to offer an objective view of a company’s ability to meet its commitments.
However, the Banque de France is not the only one to offer a rating and its rating is in competition with other systems.
What is the Banque de France rating system for companies? What objectives does it pursue and how does it compare in particular in its use, in practice with other actors? What are the implications for the real economy?
The Banque de France rating uses a neutral evaluation mechanism, which differentiates it from other players in financing the economy (I), but usage reveals its limits (II).
The rating of companies by the Banque de France consists of two elements: an activity rating based on the company’s turnover (CA) which expresses its level of activity, and a credit rating situating the company on a risk scale.
To establish its rating, the Banque de France analyzes the financial and qualitative data of 237,797 French companies4. Financial data is numerical, mathematical data, while qualitative data relates to contextualization, the understanding of a norm or an underlying attitude; they are more difficult and time-consuming to analyze and compare. Combining the two sources of data to establish its rating allows you to have a more detailed vision of the reality of the company and to give it meaning so that the information is more interesting for investors and banks. This analysis carried out by experts from the Banque de France is called an “expert rating”.
In addition to this expert rating, the Banque de France also uses models to establish its rating of companies. The companies of scoring and rating also use models that they sometimes combine with expertise to refine their rating. The Banque de France also uses this dual method to obtain precise results, aiming to be as close as possible to reality.
The Banque de France rating of companies has a significant advantage over private rating agencies. Indeed, it does not create risks on the market because it is neither published nor public, whereas the ratings of private agencies are. Moreover, it is free.
This rating is therefore not accessible to the general public but to a limited number of players, which are credit institutions, credit insurers and the company itself. Each rating is indeed communicated to the manager of the company who can request additional information on the ratings assigned, as well as a personalized interview with the Banque de France.
The purpose of this rating is to facilitate dialogue between investees and investors by securing information relating to the repayment capacity of a company, information that can be consulted by those who will finance and those who will ensure the lines of credit. Since the Banque de France has no interest in the financial transaction due to its role as a central bank, it offers a neutral, external and objective view of the company’s situation.
Having a reliable, objective and confidential company rating system makes it easier for companies to obtain financing, as risks and lack of confidence with banks have been reduced. This energizes the economic fabric by increasing the liquidity of companies and by the same token their ability to innovate, develop, expand and export. This has a direct effect on growth and the trade balance.
Practice shows that other systems exist alongside that of the Banque de France.
Indeed, each bank has developed its own internal rating system. Before financing a company, they compare their rating with that of the Banque de France. Having their own system allows them to have more agility in their management, for example by adding criteria or fields not covered by the Banque de France, to also have data updated more quickly, especially in the case where the company is a customer of the bank. Its strategic position on several hundred sites allows it to be as close as possible to the reality of local uses and the company.
The activity rating represents the level of activity of the company according to the turnover, broken down into 14 degrees.
The activity rating
Bank of France
The Banque de France credit rating contains 13 categories. To classify companies, it takes into account the financial situation and its evolution, the economic environment, commercial relations as well as payment incidents and legal proceedings.
The credit score
Bank of France
To establish these ratings, the Banque de France uses data from INSEE, commercial court registries as well as accounting and audit data from companies.
The use of the Banque de France rating or an internal rating is justified by the range of sources and the number of criteria studied. If the Banque de France offers a narrower scope, then it is interesting to develop its own rating internally, which is often the case in practice.
With the Banque de France, however, there is a possibility offered to business leaders to negotiate the result, the rating of their listing.
Alongside the Banque de France rating of companies, there is that of managers: the manager indicator. It is composed of four degrees of graduation. In this leader indicator, the 040 mark means, for example, that the leader has filed for bankruptcy in the last three years. In theory, this is not blocking to obtain a loan from a bank for his company but, in practice, the credit establishment will also be interested in the indicator of the leaders: if this one is weak , funding will not be granted. This is what is observed in practice.
The listed market is favored by investors today because it knows the value of a company in real time. This is not the case of the real economy, of the unlisted market which is struggling to find liquidity. the private equity can only grow and raise funds with the support of an efficient and reliable rating system. These investments are risky due to the lack of visibility of the company’s information. The Banque de France rating of companies, as well as those of private agencies, come here to provide information in this environment that is usually a little opaque.
The state plays an important role in the growth and development of the real economy, as evidenced by France’s economic recovery plan for 2020-2022 initiated by the government. For example, to achieve this, the law PACT5 relies on private savings through life insurance to finance companies in the unlisted market. It is therefore essential to have an effective rating system in order to be able to direct financing to the best performers and avoid excessively risky investments.
The major problem in terms of financing remains the risk, the lack of confidence. The Banque de France acts for confidence and develops the economy: it is a factor of growth. Indeed, the Banque de France rating of companies is a neutral and objective rating carried out by an independent institution, it therefore provides all the guarantees of confidence to reassure the banking and investment market.
The Banque de France’s business rating system makes it possible to unify the rating and to have a benchmark for all players. However, cohabitation with internal rating systems is justified to refine and increase the number of criteria. The current dynamic being to direct financing towards the unlisted market, the rating systems of companies and in particular the Banque de France rating play an increasingly decisive role and are gaining in importance for the economy of tomorrow.