BNP Paribas and BlackRock join forces for CSR

A programme designed to bring young people to the trading floor underlines the importance of diversity in the workplace.

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BNP Paribas’ Global Markets unit in Paris has joined forces with BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, to participate in ‘Big City Bright Future’, an inspiring work experience programme created especially to help school leavers who aspire to work in finance. Giving interns from non-financial backgrounds the chance to gain direct experience of the world of banking and asset management, this initiative has helped a range of students understand the role of finance in the modern economy.
Launched in 2015 by BlackRock in partnership with non-profit organisations IntoUniversity and Les Entretiens de L’Excellence, ‘Big City Bright Future’ is a three-week work experience programme for students from a wide range of academic backgrounds. The initiative is designed to help students develop core business skills, giving interns the opportunity to gain a better understanding of day-to-day corporate life, work with teams on assigned projects and interact with senior management. Since the programme was launched, more than 450 selected young talents have joined the programme across 18 firms in finance and law, with seven new firms joining in 2020.

In line with the overall CSR strategy of the bank built around the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, ‘Big Cities Bright Future’ seeks to help address diversity challenges faced by organisations during traditional campus hiring. Helping to improve the financial industry’s social engagement by casting a wider net in the recruitment process, the programme gives employees an opportunity to get involved in shaping the future of the industry.

Lourdes Fernando & his mentor Eva Klein, Sales in charge of Private Banks
University: Paris Nanterre
Tell us about your experience:
At first, I was stressed but also curious to see the trading room! My favourite part was the time I spent with the Marketing and Sustainability teams.

Jenna Chalom & her mentor Antoine Burlereaux, Institutional Sales
University: Paris 1 Sorbonne
Tell us about your experience: I was expecting it to be like the Wolf of Wall Street! But in fact it was a warm and welcoming environment. I was really impressed by how salespeople manage client relationships.

Sarah Namer & her mentor Adrien Amsellem, Institutional Sales.
University: Sorbonne
Initial thought before BCBF: I wasn’t expecting much, but I was very pleased to see how welcoming everyone was. The openness of our mentors and everyone we met made this experience so enjoyable.
For Talbot Stark, Global Head of Institutional Sales at BNP Paribas Global Markets, the programme was a great opportunity for the bank to strengthen its connection with BlackRock around a common CSR purpose. “Welcoming these young talents into our teams gave us a sense of responsibility to introduce them to this exciting industry and, hopefully, inspire them to pursue a career in it,” he explains.

Anabelle Canal, who was Global COO of Institutional Sales at BNP Paribas Global Markets at the time the programme ran, explains how it has changed the bank’s perspective. “The enthusiasm both interns and mentors showed during the programme has reinforced our commitment to engaging with the younger generation and welcome talent from diverse backgrounds into our teams.”

Pierre Sarrau, Chief Investment Officer for Multi-Asset Strategies at BlackRock highlights the importance of partnership with city firms; “We are fortunate to have such wonderful support with many firms in London and Paris allowing us to deliver Big City Bright Future to many more students. Our partnership with BNP Paribas has allowed us to reach international students which elevates the programme and enriches the experience of all students taking part.” 

Helping the industry attract new talent

Big City Bright Future has given students the opportunity to experience the financial markets directly. At the end of the programme, the participating interns described the change in their perceptions of finance, which generated both excitement and interest in possible future career paths in the sector.

For its part, BNP Paribas is committing to supporting ‘Big City Bright Future’ again next year, looking to extend to new locations and other entities in its Corporate and Institutional Banking arm. It is one of many ways BNP Paribas aims to drive forward diversity in and demystifying the banking industry, often perceived as a ‘black box’, while a more inclusive talent pool should nurture greater creativity and innovation.