During its first forty years, few large-scale property transactions were carried out, the Bank preferring to rent the premises it used. It felt that this stance was more advantageous and less risky, adapting its premises in line with the growth of its business. As it entered the next century, notably given the rising costs of moving into new premises, Societe Generale decided it was time to own its buildings. This new strategy was behind the creation of the "Immobilière parisienne et départementale" (Parisian and French property) subsidiary* in 1910.
From the end of the 19th century, larger bank branches used technical and architectural innovations resulting from industrial research and practices. The new processes and materials combining iron, glass and reinforced concrete enabled vast areas to be enclosed whilst providing light from above and having a certain appeal to the eye. These metal aisles adjoined the rear walls of buildings and overlooked courtyards and gardens.
Inside, a long counter separated staff from the general public. It was a place devoted to interaction, and was separate from where clerical staff worked. This type of model can be found in the Bordeaux branch, which was the first branch opened outside Paris.
Before reaching the main hall, customers first went through the newswire lobby. A true hub of news and communication in the main branch and others, this lobby showed, hour by hour, the stock market price, the latest headlines, the day's newspapers and even comments written in chalk on blackboards.
The architecture, both inside and outside, of these bank branches conveyed the Bank's image. Impressive, it reflected the Bank's sturdiness and helped gain customers' trust. This model, widespread throughout France, would last until the 1950s.
*This subsidiary started out managing 5 buildings in Paris and 25 elsewhere in France. It was dissolved in 1962, by which time it was managing 480 buildings.