New Member Spotlight: BNP Paribas

Monday 30th May 2022

We are delighted to welcome BNP Paribas to the Alliance. BNP Paribas is a major international banking group with over 190,000 employees and presence in over 68 countries. In this interview, Valérie Eymard, Head of Commercial, Personal Banking & Services (CPBS) Company Engagement, shares the group’s strategic vision for tapping into the female economy with a particular focus on WSMEs.

Alliance: With presence in 68 countries, and some excellent women’s markets programs in some countries already, what is BNP Paribas’s global vision for tapping into the female economy? 

Valerie Eymard: Our goal is to support women to launch and grow their own businesses, whether internally within our institution or externally for our women clients. It’s in the interest of countries we are in and obviously in our retail activity’s interest. Woman entrepreneurship is, within CPBS (Commercial, Personal Banking & Services) that I represent for Company Engagement, one of our four priorities. And I know Women in Business is a cause that is very well integrated into other BNP Paribas lines of business.

Alliance: What segments of women’s markets are you focused on and why?

VE: We help women startups, women owned and led SMEs and women leaders in large corporates, regardless of business sector they operate in. 

Alliance: While capturing sex-disaggregated data is critical to establishing a baseline for a women’s markets program, many banks have significant challenges due to legacy systems etc. Where are you in your gender data journey? 

VE:  Depending on local regulations, and sometimes because of our own IT systems, in some countries we are not able to identify data from women businesses. This does not prevent us from serving them but we are aiming to fix clear targets.

Alliance: BNPP has a huge digitization agenda and we’re seeing a lot of fintechs offering solutions to enhance banks’ capacity to serve underserved segments including WSMEs with both financial and non-financial services. How is BNPP leveraging technology to be more inclusive of women?

VE: Technology is one of the three pillars for BNP Paribas group 2025 strategy, and Beyond Banking and Open Banking mechanisms are often used in our bank’s network. Therefore, it is natural to see that some of our entities are already integrating fintechs and other external services providers to serve women entrepreneurs. It’s already the case in some countries thanks to the « Women in Tech » initiative.

Alliance: BNPP recently launched its first ‘climate analytics and alignment report’ with targets set for 2025. Do you have a clear climate finance program to drive your clients to become more climate responsible? To what extent are you incorporating a gender lens in your climate initiatives?

VE: “S” for Sustainability is the another of the three pillars of our 2025 strategic plan… We have launched climate action products and services for large corporates on the one hand through our CIB network, and on the other hand, we support smaller businesses be sustainable through our retail banks. Our Asset Management and Wealth Management businesses are also playing a huge role, and in retail banking we support consumers access sustainable modes of transport and energy efficient houses. There are also initiatives that merge climate resilience with women entrepreneurship in for example Senegal, where we help women farmers to make rice grow in partnership with United Nations. On a more serious level, we have also specific services to help women victims of abuse, through our Nickel entity. In the future, I would like to do even more to to help our clients adapt to climate change and to have a positive impact on society. 

Alliance: Moving to the internal side, your Board of Directors is made up of nearly 50 percent women, higher than the averages for the sector —was this a deliberate strategy

VE: Whether for Sustainability or for inclusion, it would be incoherent on one hand to propose products to drive clients to carbon neutrality or to support diversity and on the other hand not being exemplary internally. At BNP Paribas, even if we have not attained our objectives yet (for example to have 40 percent women on the Executive Committee by 2025 and 37 percent of women in IT departments by the end of 2024), there has been a continuous effort for a long time for pay equality and gender diversity and inclusion through the entire BNPP Group as well the Executive Committee. For example, in CPBS, four of the Entity CEOs are women, and on the Company Engagement department Executive Committee, 8 out of 11 are female.

Alliance: Do you see a correlation between having a commitment to diversity and inclusion and getting the buy-in for an external women-centered strategy?

VE: It’s unfortunately less clear than this. All our banks are engaged in inclusion, and propose extra financial services for women. But to launch new bank products specifically for women entrepreneurs sometimes takes longer than we would like… But we think we are going in a good direction including the availability of our relationship managers to support women entrepreneurs, it is not only a question of products!

Alliance: How did you first hear about the Financial Alliance for Women, and why did you decide to join?

VE: Our U.S. bank was in touch with the Financial Alliance, and our Turkish bank has been a member for quite a long time. In the end, the relationship was established thanks to our group HR department. When we met last year, I was immediately convinced of the Alliance’s capacity not only to help our pioneer banks, but also to support the setup of women activities in banks that were not yet in this topic. And to be fully transparent, the Alliance is also a perfect tool to animate our internal Women In business communities!