At the beginning of March, 12 BNP Paribas employees got involved in the adventure of positive...
Portrait of an intrapreneur: Richard Jones, the man who disrupted intrapreneurship.
Since September 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. It provides a way for people to play an active role in the company’s future, and create new ways of working from within. New part of a series launched by BNP Paribas to profile these entrepreneurial employees.
Today’s intrapreneur is Richard Jones. Well, if we can call him an intrapreneur, because the product manager is about to launch his service to connect asset managers, investors and financial experts, in the form of a spin-off called MyFundMatch. Simply put, his product could become the LinkedIn of financial funds. So is he an intrapreneur? An entrepreneur? And what if this does not matter? Interview.
A passionate personality.
The interview is to be conducted over the phone. Because, since he threw himself into this adventure by incorporating People’s LAB in 2015, the intrapreneur divides his time between Luxembourg and Paris, and is always between two trains and two meetings. Suffice to say that to see his project through to a successful conclusion, he has needed faith and energy! “It is true that I have quite a passionate personality, and the ability to devote myself whole-heartedly to what I am doing”. We just need to take a look at his career path to see this.
The Belgian-Frenchman began his studies in physical sciences, an area in which he did not feel at home. He then turned to economics, at the University of Liège. “I chose this path by taking advantage of opportunities that arose. I then developed a passion for investment funds”. In addition to a student association that organised trips with adventure activities, he created a club to learn how to invest in the stock market. “There was an educational aspect, with the betting of real amounts of money from our subscription fees”. After gaining initial experience, he joined Paribas just before the bank became the subsidiary BNP Paribas Securities Services.
“ It is true that I have quite a passionate personality, and the ability to devote myself whole-heartedly to what I am doing ”
From product manager to intrapreneur.
“My work consisted of creating and packaging products, enabling asset management groups such as Aberdeen and Carmignac to sell their investment funds to third parties”.
Through this position, he identified certain issues in how relationships are formed and communication conducted between various parties. “This is how I had the idea for MyFundMatch, which makes it easier for fund buyers and sellers to form relationships, and facilitates numerous steps (monitoring of the product in which they have invested, obligation to comply with certain due diligence rules, etc.)”. The goal was not to manage agreements on the platform, but to make things easier for the parties pre- and post-sale. “The service enables a relationship of trust to be created between the parties”.
This is how I had the idea for MyFundMatch, which makes it easier for fund buyers and sellers to form relationships, and facilitates numerous steps
Avoiding conflicts of interest.
His project was already well defined when it incorporated the first class of People’s LAB, BNP Paribas’ intrapreneur accelerator, in 2015. “I was lucky to have this idea just when People’s LAB was created”, he says.
At first, he saw his service taking the form of an application. “The accelerator allowed me to structure my approach, to gain ownership of my project and to highlight the success factors”. In particular by enabling him to co-design his product with clients. Why talk about this? Because this stage was fundamental.
In fact, one point emerged immediately: the idea was considered a good one, but a significant number of the clients questioned said they were concerned about finding themselves in a position of conflict of interest with BNP Paribas. “Hence the idea, developed relatively quickly, of creating a spin-off, which avoided this notion of conflict of interest and also created a product that would not be subject to banking regulation. And one that was therefore agile”. Today, as a first step, the entity created remains a 100%-owned subsidiary of BNP Paribas Securities Services. “If the product develops according to our outlook, we plan to open it to investors. But it is difficult today to say how the service will have developed in 18 months’ time”.
Endurance and tenacity.
Richard needed endurance and tenacity to take his project from the idea of an application to the launch of his company. Good thing then, that he loves competition and challenges. “I have been sailing for a very long time, I have taken part in numerous competitions, including races in the Mediterranean. Today, I rather go for challenges like trails”.
This combative quality enables him to overcome all obstacles one by one, whether operational, technical or human. And to transform a project for a new innovative service, based on data and not on a product, into a new dedicated business line. All this within a bank where there are significant security constraints. “I needed – and still need – to provide reassurance. I did it because I am convinced that I am right, that my service will work”. This is why he tirelessly answered questions, and met representatives of business lines and entities. “I have a good knowledge of the group. This has enabled me to understand the rules that I need to follow to explain and demonstrate the viability of my project, and how to adapt these rules to my product’s needs”. A path that, he says, would prove more complex than the idea itself and its implementation. “In practice, I have been working extensively on my project for two years, and have only now got to the point of establishing the articles of incorporation for the company MyFundMatch!”
Working as part of a team.
So two years of internal lobbying and evangelism. As in the sports that he enjoys, he stresses that success also owes a lot to an ability to work as part of a team.
The intrapreneur must deal with his company. He must mobilise, convince people internally and deal with already defined working methods
“I was lucky to receive strong support in-house. About ten employees have been involved in the project, from the internal labs, functions, technical and commercial services”. He also mentions the important role played by his manager, Jean Devandez, with whom he worked so well that Jean has now become chairman of MyFundMatch. “This is perhaps the difference between an entrepreneur and an intrapreneur. The entrepreneur is alone, and must drive his ship forward. The intrapreneur must deal with his company. He must mobilise, convince people internally and deal with already defined working methods”.
An intrapreneur who could become an entrepreneur.
Whatever the case, with this project, he will have almost “disrupted", arguably, the world of intrapreneurship that is just beginning to be deployed within the company. But, he recalls, the important thing is not so much the form as the content. Because the crucial point is this: this adventure will have taught him to work in a completely different manner. “I will always perhaps be an intrapreneur in the official sense of the word, who will work on my product for the group. But whatever I am, intra- or entre-, I am sure that even if my initiative does not come to fruition, I will be tempted to launch another one, in an agile manner”.
An experience that shifts the lines.
These initiatives change the individual, that is indisputable. But they also change the organisation that supports them. By validating, for example, the use of internal structures that work in an agile manner: the intrapreneur benefited from the resources of People’s LAB to test his idea.
Then certain services of the Atelier Design Factory, by the Atelier BNP Paribas, to work on the user approach. He still benefits today from the services of the Workshop, which advises him at different levels. His story also shifts the lines for human resources, which today must take into account this new hybrid status between the employee and the entrepreneur. “Our experience has undoubtedly raised new human resources management issues”. The impact is also significant externally.
An example? To optimise the collection of data for his service, he approached a young company that became the heart of the Atelier BNP Paribas, and which now works with bank entity BGL BNP Paribas. “By creating an internal start-up, we also open up even more to external start-ups. This is perhaps the best way of instilling and disseminating innovation!”