Paul, it’s been three years since you took on the role as CEO for Asia Pacific (APAC) in December 2020. How has it been going?
We all know the world has faced significant shifts and markets have faced uncertainty in the last few years.
For me, taking the helm in the midst of a global pandemic presented a whole new set of challenges, but it has also been very fruitful.
I’m happy to say, we have succeeded and developed a strong Asia Pacific presence over the last few years, building on connectivity and gaining market shares in key corridors. Of course, we’re building on solid foundations; we have a long presence and heritage in the region with a strong commitment to our clients here. We have the network and history to play a key role in building businesses for the future, often dealing with multiple family generations of entrepreneurs.
❝ We have developed a strong Asia Pacific presence over the last few years, building on connectivity and gaining market shares in key corridors. Of course, we’re building on solid foundations; we have a long heritage in the region. ❞
We have scale and are profitable in all of the 13 APAC markets where we operate, and have worked to build out a solid client franchise of local and multinational corporates, as well as financial institutions. With our strong balance sheet and integrated business model, we are able to stay relevant to our clients and evolve with their needs in any market conditions – and accompany them from home markets into new areas.
What are the Bank’s short and long-term priorities in the region?
We aim to be the number one European bank for Corporate and Institutional Banking (CIB) and the preferred European partner for Wealth Management, Insurance and Asset Management. We’ve come a long way towards that goal, delivering growth in the region and bridging the gap between European clients and the Asian markets and vice versa, and leveraging comprehensive solutions using our integrated model.
As we further connect APAC to EMEA and Americas for our clients, we continue to strengthen our platforms and solutions teams across our hubs in Hong Kong and Singapore, as well in our local markets.
And while we pursue focused growth and continue to invest, we remain disciplined on costs, ensure we mitigate risks, and attract and retain talents across generations. In such a fast-changing world with multiple challenges, we need the right mix of experience and fresh perspectives.
How has this strategy contributed to the Bank’s development in the region?
CIB has historically been, and still is, the key pillar in APAC. Thanks to our strong client franchise comprised of financial institutions, corporates and high net worth individuals, we have been able to develop leading solution platforms in the region, across Global Markets, Global Banking or Securities Services.
However, we have also developed a solid Wealth Management franchise, and strong set-ups and partnerships in Asset Management, Insurance and Personal Finance.
For the businesses and markets that require more local insights such as Consumer Finance, Asset Management and Insurance, we continue to grow with strategic partners, combining our expertise with their local reach.
This diversified and integrated model enabled a steady growth and proved its resilience through cycles and during recent high volatility years.
We had years where all CIB, Investment and Protection Services (IPS) and Commercial, Personal Banking & Services (CPBS) were thriving across the board, and some where financing and flow banking made up for the lack of primary businesses. With the recent interest rate surge, our efforts in past years on growing Cash Management were well rewarded. Likewise, when markets bottom out, we are confident that investment in our global equity business like Prime Brokerage, Research and Investment Banking will serve our clients well and deliver strong results.
This places us in a unique and solid position to expand and reinforce our presence in the region and grow our contribution to the Group’s results in a sustainable way.
How has the Asia Pacific business adapted to growing momentum around sustainability?
The Bank has been a leading voice in sustainable finance for over a decade, with the Asia Pacific region no exception. We held our first Sustainable Future Forum (SFF) in Singapore eight years ago; what was then a niche market is now very much mainstream. We are well regarded and recognised by the market. As well being named the Best ESG House by IFR Asia in 2022, BNP Paribas is consistently ranked top three in the APAC ESG bonds league tables, according to Bloomberg.
This year, the Group announced even more ambitious targets on the energy transition, representing major pivot towards low-carbon energies. A few years ago, it also set up a dedicated Low-Carbon Transition Group (LCTG) to provide exclusive advisory expertise to our clients.
Economies in Asia are at varying stages of their energy transition journeys, and banks have an important role in facilitating financing to deliver true, climate-positive impact across key economic sectors. With our strong Sustainable Capital Markets team, robust sector expertise and client engagement strategy, we are supporting clients through financing solutions and ESG advisory, such as transition finance. These are being tapped into by issuers and investors, and increasingly by governments.
❝ Economies in Asia are at varying stages of their energy transition journeys, and banks have an important role in facilitating financing to deliver true, climate-positive impact across key economic sectors. ❞
Early this year, we held our first electric vehicle (EV) conference in the region, which welcomed more than 300 corporate and institutional clients and tapped into some of the Group’s significant expertise in the mobility space. EV adoption is accelerating faster in China than anywhere globally. China market is huge and leading players are clearly emerging, and we are supporting them into new export markets in Europe, feeding our Personal Finance and Arval platforms.
On a personal note, what’s your career highlight over your 35 years with BNP Paribas?
When I started my journey with the Bank in 1988 as a system analyst in Paris, I never thought I would be here in Hong Kong, leading such an exciting and dynamic region for the Group. Going from IT to credit, then from corporate banking to investment banking, travelling all over Europe, then landing back in Asia whilst working for the same Group has been a unique and fascinating experience. I relish the connections I have made with all the great colleagues and mentors along this way.