The bank for a changing world

Portrait of an intrapreneur: Emmanuelle Fenard, the evidence of intrapreneurship

  • Mathilde Cristiani Copywriter & storyteller
  • Paris
  • 16.05.2018

Since 2014, the People’s Lab has been encouraging employees with an innovative idea to develop it into a product or service which can be incorporated into the Group’s activities. Now, the intrapreneurship programme, with its roots in the Engagement Department, is going even further: it will be targeting initiatives with a positive impact on the Bank AND on society. BNP Paribas is launching a series of portraits to introduce these #Intrapreneurs4Good.

Connecting entrepreneurs and disabled people so as to make their daily life easier and to help with their social integration: that's the project championed by Emmanuelle Fenard, Marketing Director at Cardif - the Bank's insurance company - who is now dividing her work schedule between her usual job and the intrapreneurship programme. Although, to be fair, the word "divide" may not be the best description. Not only is this enthusiastic, driven woman prototyping a programme, but acting as a prototype herself: her success will depend upon her ability to train her teams to follow her own example. This is a portrait of a woman for whom the intrapreneurial spirit is all about leadership.

Entrepreneurial to the core

Push the boundaries, explore, experiment. Although there may not be a miracle formula for creating an entrepreneur or an intrapreneur, there is still a distinctive attitude, a desire to be engaged in action, and to test new things. For this manager, this state of mind seems to come naturally. "I naturally think cross-functionally; I'm an enthusiast. I like to connect things and people together. It's in my DNA", she announces at the start of our conversation. Her career path certainly leaves you with the impression that she has always had a passion for creating the opportunities to make her own wishes come true. As a student, she signed up for a business school with the intention of working in Human Resources or Marketing. "Marketing for its creativity; HR for the human and social aspect". As part of her studies, she spent a year in the UK with the Erasmus programme. "The programme had been created one year before. The initiative still wasn't all that well-known at the time. I had to convince those around me, and sell the idea to them".

She then made her entry into the world of business, with a clear idea in her head: "I have to be doing a job that I like; I need to have projects, to feel uplifted and stimulated". Her first experience brought her face to face with reality: she joined a large retailer, and managed a team consisting mainly of store personnel and cashiers. "In that position, I came into contact with people who saw work simply as a way of supporting themselves". This proved to be a useful insight. She learned the importance of constantly listening and adapting to situations and people. "Since then, one of my guiding principles has been to ensure that my team members work in positions where people will be the most fulfilled, and therefore the most effective", she notes.

one of my guiding principles has been to ensure that my team members work in positions where people will be the most fulfilled, and therefore the most effective

An intrapreneurial approach - before such a thing existed!

She joined BNP Paribas - who were then still just BNP - in the 90s. In her first post, she was head of a marketing department in Vélizy. It was a decentralised, operational role that she enjoyed, because it let her run experimental projects: "I worked with two colleagues to set up a project for making marketing telephone calls to customers; there was nothing else like it at the time".

It was a success, and became a telephone sales service. "That project helped to show that it was possible to sell banking products by phone," she points out. "It's fair to say it was my first experience of intrapreneurship using a Test and Learn approach!

An internal explorer

Her career then continued in the same vein. While for many women, motherhood is all too often an impediment to their career, she was able to find opportunities at this stage of her life. "My maternity leave periods actually boosted my career and led to new jobs each time". This served as an introduction for her to the Bank's various business areas, such as electronic banking in the early days of card payment: she launched the Premier card, followed by the Business card and was seconded for 3 years as part of a joint venture with Cofinoga to launch a co-branded card. She also worked to develop multichannel transactions and got involved in a Lean Startup operation as part of an agile platform experiment, which was ahead of its time. "We had to work within tight time constraints, with multi-skilled teams, while canvassing customers to understand their needs". She adopted the same philosophy of testing new ways of working in 2004, when she decided to lead one of the first co-construction sessions in Design Thinking with customers. "I had to convince my superiors to adopt this type of customer relationship; it was a disruptive concept at the time".

Then came a strategic marketing position at Cetelem, where the task at hand was to restore the image of revolving credit. She then accepted an essentially international role in which she was responsible for transmitting good practices in marketing and mutualisation. In 2013, she decided to explore the insurance industry, and settled with Cardif. Once again, she initiated a work approach that was unknown at the time: frugal innovation, offering services which put the end customer at the heart of every project. 

Intrapreneurship: an obvious choice

Intrapreneurship therefore seems the logical next stage in this born co-operator's career. It is, in a sense, a new field to be explored, cleared and used for experimentation. "Last year, we created a community of customers consisting of disabled people, to help us understand how to best to serve them when they find themselves in this situation. We needed to better understand when to release funds, and how to adapt to their reality, to the reality of an illness that keeps changing. This cause fascinated me. But I still couldn't see how to take it further". So what triggered the change? Her meeting with Ronalpia, a social and economic support incubator.

"You could say that was the tipping point for me; it made me want to accelerate projects that could help customers". She wants to incubate start-ups that would develop projects - mainly in fintech, but not exclusively - dedicated to people with disabilities and/or handicaps. "We'll let them test their services with our customers, who can also invest in these projects if they want to". 

Where personal and professional convictions converge

This gives us complete freedom to make time for the project; we don't need to fight for it, and we can be fully dedicated

For Emmanuelle, getting involved with the intrapreneurship programme is thus much less of a break or the discovery of new modes of collaboration, and more of a continuation. "I've been working like this for a long time", she says. "What's changed now is that for the first time, I'm directly responsible for a project, and not just a sponsor". The other key milestone is the protective framework of such a programme, and especially the legitimacy it confers on the project leader. "This gives us complete freedom to make time for the project; we don't need to fight for it, and we can be fully dedicated".

Even so, for her, this adventure does represent a great change: an opportunity to bring her professional and personal convictions together. "This experience gets me even closer to the CSR (corporate social responsibility) dimension", she explains. "I've been involved for a long time in initiatives related to the social support sector, on a personal level. I do my composting, and I buy local, organic produce". But this aspect of her life has until now been confined to the personal sphere. "This experience is changing my approach and has made CSR a key component of my professional life".

When being an intrapreneur is all about being in control of your life. 

So, does Emmanuelle now see herself as an intrapreneur? No, more of a proactive decision-maker. " If we want things to suit us, we need to be proactive in all spheres of our lives. That's why I've been heavily involved in parents' associations for my children. I've co-organised conferences on learning differently, and non-violent communication", she continues. In a professional capacity, she has participated in the MixCity internal women's network, "to show that women make as much progress as men in companies". She also joined the office of the Association of Management Executives, to create a commission for diversity. And her goal was to make a point through her own example. " This is one of my ambitions in this intrapreneurship adventure: to raise awareness among my teams". Hasn't it been said that for change to really take root, it must be driven by leadership? "That's where my added value lies, in my ability to train, to create value. Change is driven by people!".

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