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Every 11 October, the United Nations stresses the importance of promoting education for young women, highlighting their achievements, encouraging them to take on responsibilities and showcasing female leadership. One of the challenges is also to raise the profile of what women do. When it comes to history, it’s true that it’s mainly men who come to the fore. However, if we take the example of Crédit Agricole, we see that women have been there at each of its major development stages – stages which often coincide with major moments in French history. In a story that is often told by men, here are portraits of four women who have played an important and sometimes key role in the Group’s history, both locally and nationally, from the First World War through to developments in the French finance sector in the 1970s and 1980s.

Mrs Trouvé stands in for her husband

You have to go back to the First World War to find the first evidence of a woman playing any role in Crédit Agricole’s history. What she did was limited to local level, but was very important for the Seine-et-Oise regional bank (now part of the Île-de-France regional bank). At the start of the Great War, the Seine-et-Oise bank had only been operating for ten years or so. Its manager, Léon Trouvé, was a farmer who had been asked to do the accounts. He was called up at the start of the war. Since he appears to have been the bank’s only employee at the time, it was in danger of ceasing to operate.

So it was his wife, whose first name has been lost in the mists of time, who took over for the duration of the war. With virtually no staff, the regional bank also had no premises – it was based at the couple’s home. Mrs Trouvé took it upon herself to write to the many wives of the borrowers – farmers who had been called up to the front – to get repayments for the loans they had taken out and so prevent the bank from going bankrupt. This temporary period seems to have lasted until the end of the war, when Léon Trouvé stepped back into his position, which he held until 1930.

This situation was not unique in the history of Crédit Agricole. Another example can be found in the Var region, where a certain Mrs Fert stood in for her husband, chairman of the Montfort regional bank, who was also called up to serve during the war. At that time, and until 1965, married women were not financially independent: they needed their husband’s authorisation to access the household accounts. However, Mrs Trouvé and Mrs Fert are proof that this did not prevent them from having financial management skills.


Louise Tallerie, first general manager of a regional bank

While Mrs Trouvé’s role was never made official, Louise Tallerie’s role was. She had been widowed in 1917, her husband having been killed at the front. First employed in 1919 by the Office de reconstitution agricole des régions envahies (a department set up to restore areas of farmland in France that had been under enemy occupation), she soon became head of a department of around twenty people. In 1921, she changed employers and joined the newly created Caisse régionale des Ardennes as general secretary. Her work was appreciated and recognised, and in 1927 she was made manager of the regional bank. She was the first woman to hold this position, and would remain so for a very long time. Indeed, it was not until 2009, almost 80 years later, that a woman was once again made manager of a bank. It was Véronique Flachaire, who took over management of the Charente-Maritime – Deux-Sèvres regional bank.

Aware that she was something of a trailblazer and absolutely certain that women should play a greater role in business, Louise Tallerie was committed to increasing the number of women recruited by the bank and, above all, to training her female employees. In 1942, at the height of the war, she had no hesitation in appointing the widow of the secretary of the Rethel local bank to the position of head of the regional bank’s first sub-branch.

However, it is the saga in which she was involved to save the regional bank that people best remember. In the spring of 1940, with the German army advancing, Louise Tallerie and her daughter took all of the accounts out of the bank: bundles of paper, files and account books were all put into the bank of a car and they headed off into the countryside. They travelled through the Aisne region, Paris and the Indre… and it was in the Limousin that she and her daughter learned of the surrender of the French army in July 1940. She then went to the Caisse Nationale to apply for authorisation to go to Charleville-Mézières and put the accounts of the Ardennes regional bank back in order. By protecting these papers from possible destruction, she had saved the assets of the Ardennes farmers. 


Louise Tallerie remained in post until 1956, racking up nearly thirty years managing the bank. For a time, her memory was kept alive in the 2010s with the Louise Tallerie Prize, designed to foster the professional ambitions of female students and encourage them to showcase their skills and sense of innovation. 


Madeleine Landy-Degon and the beginnings of Crédit Agricole’s international expansion

As she was fleeing the city, Louise Tallerie may have crossed paths with her colleague Madeleine Landy-Degon. She joined the bank in 1931. At the same time, she took courses at the Institut des Hautes Études Internationales and wrote a dissertation on the history and organisational structure of Crédit Agricole. She submitted it for the Institut de France’s Rossi Prize for political economics, and in 1936 was its only winner (it had previously been shared between people), as well as the first woman to receive it. The result was a book entitled “Le Crédit agricole: sources, formes, caractères et fonctionnement en France et dans les principaux pays”, about the bank’s origin, its various organisational structures and how it operates in France and its other main countries. After the war, it became bedside reading for many managers seeking further training.

However, the war forced the staff of the Caisse Nationale to retreat to Blois. For Madeleine Landy-Degon, it was just one of many events during this troubled period. She decided to take a leave of absence and move with her husband to the Aude region and take over the running of a farm. This farm served as cover and was where she welcomed numerous resistance members, particularly Germans fleeing their own country who were opposed to the war. Madeleine Landy-Degon herself spoke German and since the 1930s had maintained friendly relationships in a number of international pacifist circles. She was also involved in distributing the Resistance movement’s underground press publications. After the war, she was involved in creating the newspaper La République du Sud-Ouest and attended the Nuremberg Trials as a correspondent.

In 1950, however, she returned to the Caisse Nationale de Crédit Agricole. For fifteen years she held various positions in the studies and documentation department. Finally, in 1965, her knowledge of languages and her international studies enabled Crédit Agricole to set up a commercial intelligence unit and establish the Group’s first international commercial relations. So, Madeleine Landy-Degon was a trailblazer for Crédit Agricole, which was seeking to help its farming clients expand internationally. It was not yet the creation of a network of branches – the first bank outside France was in Chicago in 1979 – but this first entity paved the way.
She retired in 1972 and moved back to the Aude region to run her farm. She died in 2015, aged 103, having also found time to publish a book of tales about the Aude region.

Elle prend ensuite sa retraite en 1972 et repart dans l’Aude exploiter son domaine agricole. Elle décède en 2015, à 103 ans, après avoir aussi pris le temps de publier un livre de contes audois.


Monique Bourven, « Notre Dame des SICAV »

Just as Madeleine Landy-Degon was leaving the bank, one of her younger colleagues was starting to rise up through the ranks. Monique Bourven initially studied history with a view to becoming a teacher. After a first posting in Narbonne, in 1968 she registered at the Institut d’études politiques in Paris, at a time when women were under-represented in this field. She didn’t make things any easier for herself by choosing economics and finance – that was where there were the fewest women at the university. She developed a passion for stockbroking at a time when women were not yet allowed into the Paris stock exchange.

In 1969, she joined the Caisse Nationale de Crédit Agricole as a financial analyst. She climbed steadily up through the ranks: head of the financial analysis division in 1972; head of the securities department in 1977; assistant head in 1982, then head of the financial markets and securities department in 1985; director of capital markets at Caisse Nationale in 1987 and director of the Segespar-Titres subsidiary. In 1989 she was appointed deputy general manager of the Caisse Nationale, responsible for assets. She was then given responsibility for international operations in July 1990.

Monique Bourven’s involvement in the capital markets was key for Crédit Agricole, which was able to make a major breakthrough in this field thanks to her. In particular, she was involved in the launch of Crédit Agricole’s first mutual fund, Épargne Unie, in 1973. It was a success, enabling the Group to raise Fr. 100 million in just a few weeks. However, the first oil crisis put a damper on this business, and it quickly fell out of favour. Monique Bourven, who took over as head of the securities department in 1977, decided to relaunch the product and boost activity in the sector. She quickly turned Crédit Agricole into a giant in asset management in France.

The press credited her with this success, nicknaming her “Notre Dame des sicavs” and “Mademoiselle 300 milliards”, 300 billion being the sum – in French francs – that her department had under management. The perseverance that she demonstrated throughout her unusual career earned her the respect of both her peers and the media. However, she did not remain deputy CEO for long: differences of opinion regarding Group strategy with CEO Philippe Jaffré prevented her from confidently flourishing in her role. So she opted to leave Caisse Nationale in 1990 to go and develop business in France on behalf of US fund manager State Street.

Having acquired a key position in the field of asset management, in 2002 she became head of the Conseil des marchés financiers (France’s Financial Markets Council) until its merger with the Commission des Opérations de Bourse (Stock Exchange Commission) in 2003. She has been a member of France’s economic, social and environmental council since 2004, and has written numerous reports, particularly on financial regulation, immigrants’ savings and the role played by women in decision-making processes. She died in February 2023.




These four different careers go some way towards showcasing women whose actions have played a key role at several major intervals in the history of Crédit Agricole. Their know-how, education and leadership qualities enabled them to assert themselves during periods that could at times be complicated. Nowadays, when we want to showcase what women do, maybe a good measure to adopt would be to raise the profile of what they have done at major events in our history.

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