Theophile Grandin (SKEMA 2019), Corporate Credit Analyst North America at BNP Paribas CIB Montreal: “SKEMA made me global minded”

17 February 2021 Interview

Theophile Grandin (SKEMA 2019), Corporate Credit Analyst at BNP Paribas CIB, has spent the last few years in Canada. From across the pond, he talks to us about his background, his job, and life as an expat in Montreal.


Could you tell us briefly about you?

I am an alumnus of SKEMA Business School and ESDHEM now living in Montreal. I took a finance-oriented path by completing the Level 1 CFA and spending a year in Raleigh in the Financial Markets and Investments master’s programme. I also spent a semester in China and another in Brazil.


What did you do after graduating from SKEMA?

BNP Paribas offered me the opportunity to do a final year internship in Paris, in a department where I prepared summaries of credit requests from strategic accounts for senior management in the Corporate and Institutional Banking branch.


What prompted you to move overseas and more specifically to Canada?

Since starting at ESDHEM, I had wanted to experience life abroad. I spent semesters on three of SKEMA’s international campuses. I especially enjoyed my semester in Raleigh, and I wanted to experience more of that North American atmosphere in a more dynamic city. After my internship in Paris I got the opportunity to go overseas as part of a VIE programme with the bank. Canada, and especially Montreal, seemed ideal for a first time living in a foreign country. I think that the years I spent at SKEMA made me global minded and made me want to continue down that path.


Can you tell us about your current role? Does it tie in with what you studied at SKEMA?

I am currently a credit analyst for the North America platform at BNP Paribas CIB. My main responsibility is to issue credit memorandums for American and Canadian corporate clients. My studies tie in well with my current role, which requires a certain degree of versatility. My training, which was rather focused on financial markets, is useful to me every day, but banking is a competitive industry where it is vital to be versatile in order to understand the stakes and challenges.


How would you describe the Canadian corporate culture compared to France?

My opinion might be biased because I work for a French company overseas, where the challenge is to adopt the local ways while respecting the history of our institution. But I have been lucky enough to work in Paris, New York and Montreal, and I have noticed a few differences. The American culture is more dynamic and new people are hired more frequently. The days are shorter but more intense. The general atmosphere is more relaxed. And Parisian buildings are loaded with history, whereas the buildings in Montreal are more like a start-up.


Do you think it is easier to get a job with responsibility faster when you’re abroad, and in North America in particular?

I have noticed significant differences in career progression between France and North America. American analysts are less attached to their company and employee turnover is higher. The market is more dynamic and it is easier to get ahead here than in France. My colleagues are much younger than those I met in my previous experiences in France. Sometimes there is a hiring freeze in banks in Europe while the company is recruiting in North America. And generally, employees don’t stay in a job for as long as they do in France.


Do you have plans for the future? Would you like to stay here, go elsewhere or return to France?

I have been fortunate to have been able to travel during my studies and my career so far, and I would like to continue. In the future, I would like to either return to Asia, and Hong Kong in particular, or go to London. New York would also be a great opportunity I couldn’t turn down. The ideal combination would be a new city to discover and a stimulating work environment. The banking world is ideal for that, with subsidiaries all over the world.


Do you have any advice for alumni or future graduates wanting to live and work in Canada?

Canada, and Quebec in particular, is ideal for a first time living in a foreign country. Montreal is a cross between the American and European cultures, and French is the official language, which can make things easier. Many companies have a presence here, and labour laws are more flexible than in France, which creates more career opportunities. There are many French nationals here; the ideal would be to gather different people’s experiences for an objective point of view. As far as I’m concerned, all my expat friends are enjoying the experience, even though it is a bit cold in winter.


Are you in contact with other alumni and/or with the network here in Canada?

Yes, there are many alumni living in Canada, in Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal. I have reconnected with friends here who have a pretty similar background to mine. I’ve also been in contact with Madeleine Martins, Director of Alumni & Fundraising, who lives in Montreal. The opening of a SKEMA artificial intelligence laboratory in Quebec should also give the alumni opportunities to meet up.


Any final words?

I think SKEMA students should take advantage of how lucky they are to be able to go overseas, particularly if they have the opportunity to gain some professional experience while there. I hesitated for a bit before leaving for Canada, because I had already spent several semesters abroad, but I’m very happy with my decision now and I don’t want to return to France just yet. I would also like to thank my finance professors, who passed on their interest in this subject to me; I have now found fulfilment in this industry.


Contact: Theophile Grandin, Corporate Credit Analyst - North America at BNP Paribas CIB