Portraits

FOCUS 70: Financial Solutions In A Digital Age

In our interview with a Patron Member, Sofia Hammoucha, Head of Transaction Banking, Southeast Asia, BNP Paribas shares about disruptions in the industry, the company’s strategy in Asia and focusing on a sustainable future. 

  

Can you tell us about the company's recent initiatives in light of current global topics such as climate change and innovative disruptions in your industry?  

BNP Paribas, as a group, has three key ambitions driving our strategic plan for 2020, namely digital transformation by promoting useful innovation for our clients, financial performance by encouraging sustainable growth in the economy, and company engagement by developing our contribution to society. 

We are committed to continually improve our clients’ experience by offering innovative solutions tailored to their specific needs as well as working with them to find solutions to help our clients finance sustainable value creation. This can range from being an active player in energy transition by financing alternative energy projects to helping clients review and improve their supply chain.  

Our approach to innovation and new technologies is very pragmatic. We have a keen interest in fintech innovations that complement our own internal expertise to offer new solutions. For example, in August, we helped our client Cargill successfully complete the first fully integrated paperless trade transaction in iron ore with Rio Tinto, reducing the transaction time from several days to two hours by using blockchain technology on Voltron’s web-based platform.  

 

What is your company's strategy for the Asia Pacific region?  

BNP Paribas has a strong, uninterrupted heritage in the Asia Pacific region, where we provide customized product and service solutions to clients in 13 Asia Pacific markets. 

In Transaction Banking, which is the business I am responsible for in Southeast Asia, we offer a full breadth of award-winning solutions and continue to add new capabilities to serve our clients’ needs in Asia Pacific, including Cash Management and Trade & Supply Chain Finance. 

Our approach is client-centric, and our continued success is based on our connectivity and our collaborative approach both internally with each other, across regions, products and teams, and externally through our collaboration with our clients and fintechs. 

What are the challenges and opportunities for BNP Paribas in Asia Pacific? 

I believe that challenges and opportunities are two sides of the same coin. We live in a digital age where cash is no longer a preferred mode of payment and “instant” is king. To me, the game changers are digital and data. The winners are those who understand how to mine and analyse data to improve efficiency and make business decisions. The question I ask myself every time I meet a client is: How can we help make their life easier?  

 

 In this issue, we explore the theme of Agri-Food Tech. From a financial institution perspective, how do you see BNP Paribas offering or adapting its services in this domain?   

We recently participated in a pilot programme using blockchain technology to increase trust, transparency and traceability in the supply chain of a commodity. Farmers were able to access cheaper funds earlier in the production process through a data-for-benefits swap. 

Agri and food production will be an important topic at our next Sustainable Future Forum. Launched in Singapore in 2016, BNP Paribas’ Sustainable Future Forum reflects the urgency and scale of re-deployment of private sector capital needed to achieve the UN’s SDGs by 2030, and the targets agreed under the Paris Climate Agreement. This year’s Forum will focus on Asia Pacific’s role in creating – and solving – the world’s climate crisis as policy measures rapidly intensify around this crucial topic.   

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Who inspires you? 

I find that my children inspire me the most with their curiosity, open-mindedness and kindness.  

Finish this sentence: "The best use of sustainable resources is ..." 

…Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. We aim to ban single-use plastic from our office! 

 What is the best way to run a meeting? 

Personally, I find that we attend too many meetings. My personal motto in attending or running a meeting is to ensure that it doesn’t last more than 30 minutes; a decision has to be made, and minutes and follow up actions are clearly documented. 

 If you could give one piece of career advice, it would be.... 

Being open to new challenges and appreciating the value of networking are two pieces of advice that come to mind. And as Roger Federer rightly says: “there is no way around the hard work, just embrace it.”  

Interview with Sofia Hammoucha, Head of Transaction Banking, Southeast Asia, BNP Paribas , for FOCUS #70. To read more articles from this issue, download your digital copy here

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