The bank for a changing world

The banking jobs : Discover the missions of the Agile Coach

  • David Elkaïm Agile Coach
  • Paris, France
  • 19.04.2018

Following doctoral research with a lab focused on artificial intelligence, change management, digital projects in pharmaceuticals and rolling out lean management in IT, David Elkaïm is constantly asking what’s next. In fact, the coach has a noteworthy new obsession in mind—transmitting the Agile mindset to his coworkers, team by team, project by project. Let’s meet a man on a mission.

What do you do as an Agile Coach at BNP Paribas? 

My role has three main parts—I train employees in Agility, I coach teams on how to adopt Agile practices in their daily activities and, finally, I work to promote an Agile culture throughout the organization. 

Remind us what the Agile method is.

Referring to the Agile method, in the singular, is a misnomer. In fact, there are a set of practices and methods associated with the Agile manifesto published in 2001. The manifesto describes the Agile mindset through four values and 12 principles of action. It can be summed up in part as follows—a team that learns how to communicate efficiently will build better products by interacting with customers on a regular basis and adapting based on their feedback. In concrete terms, Agile methods take the opposite stance to traditional approaches by seeking to solve issues as they arise, instead of trying to explore them all at the outset. In this connection, teams learn to develop a new product in an iterative and incremental fashion, moving one step at a time and retracing their steps if they see they are on the wrong path. 

What types of projects do you work on?

There are three categories of support depending on the maturity level of the product in development. First, I step in during the conceptualization phase to train teams to see the world through their customers’ eyes and to imagine, prototype and test new ideas over several weeks, until they find one that shows promise as a viable new product. 

The second type of action—support during the development phase. At that point, I help compose the team and secure its access to all necessary internal resources—business lines, IT, support functions, marketing, etc.—which will enable the team to transform its idea into a full-fledged product that it can put in its customers’ hands in just a few months. I coach them to build their capacity to self-organize and learn from feedback as they develop a product. Finally, I also support teams that have been using Agile practices for several months and who want an outside perspective to help them meet scaling challenges—more teams, more products, more sites, etc. 

How do you get involved in a project?

I rely heavily on word of mouth. Of course, I’m part of the Group’s Agile Skills Center, but teams call on me above all because they have heard about the missions I’ve undertaken with other teams. In my work, I often feel like I have an intrapreneur’s spirit, working on assignment within my own company.

Can you give us an example of a project you have worked on?

I recently had the opportunity to coach a team that developed a product to streamline interactions between the bank and its customers regarding compliance inquiries tied to payments. Previously, this type of request went through several teams and channels (email, phone, etc.) before unfreezing the transaction. With the Inquiro app, the team offered a simple and secure way to share this information. The solution was co-constructed with a focus group of customers, so we could target the right people and key data. 

After several months, the team had managed to release an initial version of Inquiro, which answered compliance inquiries and unfroze payments in two days instead of two weeks. Since then, Inquiro has continued to develop by expanding to cover the bank’s large-account customers and capitalizing intelligently on data histories to ensure that a recurring transaction is not frozen several times. 

Is it possible to apply your methods across an entire group like BNP Paribas?

Yes, the company just has to make it a meaningful process and dare to experiment. The biggest challenge comes not from the size of the company, but from the force of habit that holds us back from change out of fear of taking too many risks. However, in my opinion, the biggest risk today is not taking risks. Fortunately, BNP Paribas is fully aware of that fact and knows that for it to remain “the bank for a changing world”, it needs to change its own organization. 

What qualities does it take to do this job?

They can be summed up in three words—listening, questioning, communication. What I like about this job is the variety of missions, as well as the tangible results you see not only for customers but also within teams. Personally, I think the job found me and not vice versa because, very early in my career, I understood that I wanted to make a difference among the people I was working with. 
“ Come as you are. Throw out all the stereotypes you might have about the bank. On the contrary, don’t be afraid to bring in a breath of fresh air. ”

David Elkaïm

Agile Coach 

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