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PEOPLE

COO of BNP Paribas APAC Philippe talks technology, sustainability and diversity

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By Arthur Tam

Many of BNP Paribas' staff are new to the Taikoo Place neighbourhood only having been here for almost two months since moving from Central, while some teams have been here for a few years.

The French international bank is known for its slogan: “The Bank for a Changing World”  with sustainability guiding its business purpose. So, to find out what that exactly means, we talk to Chief Operating Officer of the APAC region, Philippe Maillard. In addition, he tells us about new, exciting developments at the company and why he feels Taikoo Place is the right place to set up shop.

My responsibility as COO is looking after 2,500 people in the 14 markets where BNP Paribas operates in Asia Pacific. I have to cope with a world that's volatile and ever-changing and spend most of my days in meetings from 9am until very late night when colleagues in Paris are working at full speed.

My role is more to give strategic directions, make decisions quickly, arbitrate whenever there is a debate, and make sure everyone is happy to follow the company vision. I am not micromanaging projects but I’ll coach my managers whenever they need me or before they know they need me. 

We are one of the biggest structurers and lead managers of green bonds issued by our clients and committed 20 billion euros in financing the renewable energy sector. Every year we publish a report that’s audited independently and measures the level of CO2 reduction from the projects financed. 

Green bonds are really one way of financing green assets and energy transition. They are not riskier than other types of bonds and just as profitable. As a bank, we’ve committed to finding new forms of finance beyond green bonds and looking more holistically at Sustainable investment to bring finance to rural areas and small scale projects that might not otherwise attract international investment. It’s really our role here as a bank to bridge the need of corporations with the demand of the institutional investor side.

Internally BNP is also committed to environmental responsibility. We have our own set of actions to reduce our own carbon footprint. There are also think tanks in HK that BNP Paribas and Swire Properties both participate in for ways to create a sustainable work environment. We are also working closely with Swire Properties on ways to conserve energy in our Taikoo Place office.
  
To relax I exercise a lot so I’m part of Pure Fitness here. I run, swim and do yoga.  I also like meditation. It really helps me to feel grounded, relaxed and in control.

Recently, I’ve been able to visit ArtisTree and watch the original musical comedy Cube Culture. I loved every part of it. The scene with the corporate jargon was all too similar to real life meetings. I was laughing out loud.

Taikoo Place is more real than Central. It’s very human here whereas I’ve found Central to be somewhat artificial and touristy. People actually work here and are not just passing by.

We regularly update our strategic plan. The group decided to commit three billion euros to be spent between 2017 -2020 and invest in digitalisation and industrialisation. The objective is to really enhance the entire client journey through AI, robotics, VR. In Europe, we want to ensure that when customers enter our branch they feel welcome and at ease. So, we’ve used VR to conceive what a branch looks like and how it is designed. This way the customer has a chance to experience it and give feedback before it’s actually built. Then when it actually is, we will know that the customer will be happy.

Diversity and inclusion mean a lot to me. One of our strengths that is part of our “BNP Paribas Way” is we want the office to be a good place to work and that it facilitates a lot of actions. For us, everybody should be able to speak their own voice and be given the same opportunity regardless of their age, gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. What's important is what the person brings to the table. We do not want clones.

We want more local talent. It brings more stability and in time, at all levels, we will have a workforce that really reflects the society we are serving.

More specifically for gender, we ensure we have equality in terms of salary and promotion, especially when it comes to the management level. We have defined targets of how many women need to be leadership positions. A few years ago we had no women in the group executive committee, now we have two. It’s a start and we shall continue to grow people’s careers internally.
 
Want to read more stories about leaders in Taikoo Place? Check out our interview with the CEO of Pure Group here

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