At work with Constance Chalchat

Efma feature

17 June 2019

Constance Chalchat’s passion for learning and transformation has seen her taking varied roles, from strategist for global consumer brands to head of company engagement for Corporate and Institutional Banking at BNP Paribas. She told Efma’s Boris Plantier about her life and work.

Tell me a little about your background.

After graduating from the HEC Paris business school with an MBA in finance, I really wanted to learn more by working outside of my comfort zone. I moved to New York, where I started working for the Danone Company, more specifically on their different strategies tailored to the different regions of the US. I then went on to manage the group’s Danone Light brand – a fantastic opportunity to test and learn cross-functional working methods to accelerate innovation and product development. This came as a revelation, and I continued looking at how to bring innovative ways of working to companies across various sectors, including Nike, Deloitte and PPR (now Kering), for which we developed one of the first multi-entity data lakes in France.

I joined BNP Paribas in 2001 and I have held various positions in marketing, communications, change management and corporate social responsibility. I’m currently head of the company engagement department in our Corporate and Institutional Banking division.

What does your workplace look like?

I work in an open-space office with no assigned desks. Everything I need fits into a large handbag. This allows me to be more flexible and to sit with teams that need me on any particular day.

This set-up has changed my working life – I can work more closely with my teams. It has also increased our overall efficiency: I can assist my teams better, helping them deal with roadblocks straight away and providing them with relevant insights and guidance.

Could you describe your usual working day?

Currently, most of my efforts are focused on accelerating innovative projects and solutions that are not only better for the planet but also for our clients and for the bank – so no two days are alike.

However, the favorite part of my day is when I get to drop my kids off at school and when I come home and spend time with them, talking about their day, my day, and kissing them goodnight.

What is your favorite food?

My favorite food is one that has a low impact on our climate. It is an organic rucola salad with ripe tomatoes, burrata di buffala cheese and Flor de Aceite olive oil from Nuñez de Prado, a Spanish producer which can trace its products back to a particular olive tree. I discovered it 10 years ago and I’ve never changed it since then – it is just perfect!

What do you do when you need a break from work?

I love nature and I’m an avid skier and diver/underwater photographer – I alternate depending on the season. I won the French Special Slalom Masters Championship and have more than 500 dives to my credit. My photographs are my way of reminding myself how amazingly beautiful nature is and how it needs to be protected (Instagram: @ilovesealife). But when I ski and dive today it is to spend time with my family. Luckily, our kids love the mountains and the sea as much as we do!

How do you build a successful team?

My line of work is all about transformation. Achieving sustainable transformation starts with having people who can both think creatively, anticipating what the future will look like, and implement change in very concrete and pragmatic ways so that it is accepted. I like to involve my teams in my vision and I tend to handpick people carefully. I am also committed to building a diverse team in terms of gender, background and viewpoints. This enables us to avoid blind spots and makes our work so much richer and more fulfilling.

There is a saying that we learn more from failure than success. Tell me about one of your failures and what you have learned from it.

I see failures as trial runs. I like testing new ideas, new concepts, and I’ve often tried out things that were too innovative at the time but which became very relevant a few years later. The first product I personally worked on for Danone was a yoghurt for babies: this was too innovative back then, but it became a very pertinent concept 10 years later. Since then, I’ve learned that the best ideas are not the most innovative ones but those that come at the right time.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to succeed in financial services?

There is a climate emergency. By acting decisively, the banking sector can be instrumental in accelerating the fight against climate change, paving the way for a more sustainable future and a healthier economy. So base your ideas and decisions on doing what’s good and right for the world. This is key to future-proof your career – and your company.

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Keywords : Workforce management

Geography : France