Assia, can you tell us how you pivoted from working as a professional dancer… to a position as a bank advisor at BNP Paribas?
Assia Bihr (A.B.) : After completing a BTS professional degree in Negotiation and Customer Relations, I decided to focus on my passion: dance. For ten years, I taught this art while organizing events – competitions, shows – around the entire world. I never thought about going into banking until I suffered an injury that forced me to rethink my career. Since I had done a BTS degree in the field, I wanted to go into sales. I saw a job listing on a BNP Paribas website and figured, “Why not me?” And I ended up getting the job. I joined the Group as a bank advisor, and then after three years, I moved up by taking a role as a wealth management advisor at a branch office.
How about you, Abraham, how did you come to the Group?
Abraham Kablan (A.K.) : My career looks much different than Assia’s, but it was just as dynamic. After a Master’s in Administration and Corporate Management, I wanted to work in purchasing. But then I happened to meet a BNP Paribas employee at a career fair, and suddenly it clicked. I didn’t know anything about banking: I didn’t even know about interest rates or Livret A savings accounts… I was a true newbie! And yet, I’ve now been working at the Group for over ten years. Initially hired as a business account manager, I became the director of a branch, and then head of sales management. Since last June, I’ve worked as a sales engineer for large international accounts at Arval, our subsidiary specialized in mobility solutions for companies and individuals.
How did you manage to take on so much responsibility so quickly?
A.K. : Thanks to internal training! When I joined the Group, I took part in an apprenticeship program, then called “L’école du commerce” or “The Business School,” set up by BNP Paribas. For six months, I trained for two days a week on products, and spent the other three days putting into practice at my branch what I had learned in the training. After completing that program, I could handle any customer request and manage portfolios. Next, when I was named director of the branch, my manager did everything possible to get me in the “Talents” program, which helped me move into the head of sales management role.
A.B. : Thanks to internal training! When I joined the Group, I took part in an apprenticeship program, then called “L’école du commerce” or “The Business School,” set up by BNP Paribas. For six months, I trained for two days a week on products, and spent the other three days putting into practice at my branch what I had learned in the training. After completing that program, I could handle any customer request and manage portfolios. Next, when I was named director of the branch, my manager did everything possible to get me in the “Talents” program, which helped me move into the head of business development role.
Have you completed any other training since then?
A.B. : Yes, several courses! Training courses are offered all year long, in order to boost our expertise in our respective professions. Since the start of the health crisis, many courses are offered remotely in order to keep up the same rhythm. They are available in “a la carte” form: each employee can block out one or several hours, or even a whole day depending on the content and length of the training course. It’s a very flexible system.
A.K. : These training courses represent an excellent asset for recruiting and improving the skills of people with great potential who may not come from a banking background. Within the various teams I had the chance to manage, I met employees from all backgrounds: with or without degrees, younger or more senior, familiar with banking or not at all…
“ We owe all the expertise we offer our customers to the rich diversity of our teams. ”
What does your profession involve on a daily basis?
A.K. : Serving our customers! It is very important to understand their activities in order to advise them. For my part at Arval, I support major corporations with their mobility strategy, and I particularly enjoy the strategic side of my job.
A.B. : Customers are indeed the central focus. Our work consists largely of building a relationship of trust and goodwill with them, for example on real estate projects, financing operations for personal accounts, savings issues… Team spirit is also present every day in our profession. My favorite experiences all come back to my coworkers on some level. When I have a lot of challenges and need backup, I know I can always count on our teams, whether it’s mine at my branch or another team somewhere else.
A.K. : Assia is right: mutual support has played a big role throughout my entire career. It’s almost like a football team. We all play an important role and we all complement each other. If we ever run into any trouble, we adapt and reorganize to help our coworkers, a bit like forwards when they fall back to help the defense during a tough match!
“There are so many opportunities available at BNP Paribas. Whether it’s changing jobs or taking on additional responsibility within the Group, anything is possible if you apply yourself.”
And what does the future hold?
A.B. : There are so many opportunities available at BNP Paribas. Whether it’s changing jobs or taking on additional responsibility within the Group, anything is possible if you apply yourself. Subsidiaries, entities and expertise areas: there are an abundance of sales roles to discover. From my dancing years, I’ve also kept my taste for new challenges: I want to keep improving my skills and I am confident that BNP Paribas can help me do so.
A.K. : Business development professions allow you to acquire operational and technical skills, while learning a lot about yourself. Every position I’ve held has brought me something new. I agree with Assia when she says that within the Group, you can pursue your profession within many different business sectors. I started out with positions at branch offices and then I joined Arval, the European leader in automobile fleet management. In the future, I still have the option to change subsidiaries and start working in real estate, for example.
Any last words to wrap up?
A.B. : BNP Paribas encourages diversity and does not hesitate to hire employees from widely different backgrounds. Mine, one of the most unusual, proves it. I’m proud to represent all this diversity and to show that it is possible to work in banking – even if you come from a world like dance!
A.K. : It’s this rich diversity of our teams that enables us to support our customers. Our two backgrounds are an excellent example of this. Moreover, BNP Paribas has set up internal networks that allow employees to meet and talk, so they can appreciate all this diversity and learn how it contributes to the company’s performance. It’s a strong commitment that keeps me eager to continue this exciting adventure.
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