Can you walk us through your exciting journey within the Group to your current position?
Shilpa Gulrajani (S.G.): I am Indian born, raised and educated. After graduating with a degree in Commerce, I decided to study for a Finance MBA from the University of Mumbai with the original goal of working on brand acquisition strategies for the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) sector. However, during a campus recruitment event I was swayed by a management traineeship from Citi, a leading US bank, that would allow me to rotate across many departments on the consumer banking side of things.
I really wanted to be active in corporate investments. So, when a role with BNP Paribas became available, I jumped on the opportunity that would become a launchpad for my incredible track within the Group. Within India, I supported the Group's strategic aspirations of investing in the Indian market. I also had short stint working on credit, which is something every banker needs to understand! My experience in India was the beginning of a career-defining journey in finance, which has led to me being able to work on strategic projects with an international footprint and under senior leadership at a very early stage of my career.
An opportunity to explore and international role presented itself in 2013 and I was asked to head up business management for the newly formed Investment Banking APAC in Hong Kong. After this exciting two-year stint, I was offered the role of leading development and strategy for Southeast Asia, based in Singapore. I also headed regional branding and communications during this time. Wearing two “hats” was a wonderfully empowering experience, enabling me to build strategic bridges within our organisation. Within the Brand and Communications portfolio which I looked after, I led several strategic branding projects for the Group – namely the Women’s Tennis Association Championship (WTA) the Sustainable Finance Forum, and the 50th anniversary of our Singapore branch, all whilst supporting the developing of the franchise in the region. About three years ago, commercial assessment and engagement in the area of ESG (environmental, social and governance) was added to my portfolio. In end-2021, I was then appointed as Head of Corporate Development and Sustainability, APAC.
“What’s so special about BNP Paribas is that there are so many opportunities on offer. It really is a platform that consciously helps professional development and acquire the different skills young professionals need to grow.”
What was it like to make the switch to working internationally?
S.G.: Originally, I thought I'd always be in India. I’m an only child and family is incredibly important to me. My manager at the time was a great influence, helping me understand that eventually I would hit a glass ceiling if I did not relocate, unable to find the challenges I needed locally. Eventually I made the decision with my family to move, and I see the great value of it all now.
Where does this commitment to sustainable finance come from?
S.G.: Sustainability, as a topic today, is more real than ever. The importance to which, has rather been better understood more widely in the past few years although it was constantly highlighted by several world leaders who believed in it, even when it was not fashionable. The way I view it, in order for sustainability to become mainstream, we have to embed it in our day-to-day business DNA – it is very much a part of a corporate’s strategy.
«The way I view it, in order for sustainability to become mainstream, we have to embed it in our day-to-day business DNA – it is very much a part of a corporate’s strategy.»
I see the significant role that finance plays in enabling corporates to transition in their pathway to be more sustainable or to achieve net-zero in the future. No matter the different roles I may play, this is where my focus will be. I now also serve on the World Bank’s board for carbon pricing and help the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) with their taxonomy issues.
What better satisfaction than having a job that can bring positive impact to the environment.
What makes the APAC region so exciting for BNP Paribas?
S.G.: APAC as a region has evolved significantly over the past decade. It’s now a major contributor to the Group, present across 13 markets, offering all our main services at a very high level. Regardless of the region’s significant degree of diversity, with various levels of market maturity, we have close and long-lasting relationships with our clients, evolving with them for the betterment and development of the region. This dynamic creates many exciting roles that you probably wouldn't find elsewhere.
BNP Paribas APAC
- Uninterrupted presence since 1860 with the establishment of our first branches in China and India
- Today, present in 13 markets
- Over 18,000 employees
- Providing a full portfolio of services to private and institutional investors all over the world
What advice would you give to young professionals looking to join BNP Paribas in APAC?
S.G.: What’s so special about BNP Paribas is that there are so many opportunities on offer. It really is a platform with vast geographical diversity and it is one of the few financial institutions that offers unrivalled breadth and depth of opportunities. BNP Paribas is an organisation which prioritises professional development and supports its employees in acquiring the different skills they need to grow. While you have the growth that comes naturally during the time you spend in your role, it is always a bonus when the organization supports you with additional training and skills that you can add to both your professional and personal skillset. My advice to anyone is to fully capitalise on the resources that organisations like ours offer. And don’t forget to take the advice your experienced managers give you; it might just be the nudge you need to do amazing things!
Photos : ©Danon / tonefotografia / StratfordProductions / NDABCREATIVITY / BNP Paribas