Mon, 21 Feb 2022

At BNP Paribas Personal Finance UK, supporting young people to achieve their potential is at the heart of our mission to make a positive impact. And our youth strategy forms a central part of our CSR activity, both within our business and in our local communities.

As part of this commitment to be a force for positive change, this year we’re very excited to be welcoming twelve students from Aston University to complete an industry placement year with us.

Based out of our offices in Solihull, this nine-month placement scheme will give students studying a variety of subjects, ranging from accounting and finance to marketing and IT, the opportunity to gain hands-on experience working in customer focused roles, while also getting exposure to other areas of the business.

We sat down with Fatima Ahamed, Employer Engagement Manager at Aston University, and Simon Jones, Head of Customer Service at BNP Paribas Personal Finance UK, to find out more about the scheme, and the benefits both for us as a business and for the students participating in the programme.

Fatima explains “In my role as Employer Engagement Manager as part of the Careers and Placements team at Aston University, I’m constantly on the lookout for employers whose values align closely with our own. And from our very first conversations with BNP Paribas Personal Finance UK, there was a clear synergy in terms of our common purpose.

“Covid-19 has had a big impact on the availability of paid industrial placements, so as a team we’ve really had to get creative when looking for placement opportunities for our students on business and finance related courses. And it was clear that one of the things that we had in common with BNP Paribas Personal Finance UK was our shared openness to trying something new.”

Simon says “As a Top Employer for 2022, it was really important for us to make this experience meaningful for the students – and this played a key part in how we shaped the structure of the placement.

“As a result, we have set up a process which means the students will migrate between two departments over a nine-month period. It is our hope that, as well as giving them exposure to the industry in which they want to work, this will also teach them vital business and life skills that they wouldn’t necessarily get from academic side of their course, ranging from time management and networking to handling challenging conversations and the importance of developing your own personal brand.

“By integrating the placement year students within the business in this way, we want them to feel just as much a part of the team as our permanent colleagues. From our experience, peer to peer recognition is the key to engaging young people, so we’ve also planned to get colleagues with varying backgrounds working across different departments to talk to them about their career journeys. By demonstrating this diversity within our business, we hope to make a career working for a company like ours feel much more accessible.”

Fatima adds “We hope that our students will get a lot out of this placement year, and the additional learning and development opportunities that BNP Paribas Personal Finance UK is willing to offer them will provide these young people with the soft skills that are so highly valued by employers.”

The placement itself will see the students follow BNP Paribas Personal Finance UK’s ‘Smart Working’ hybrid model, with two days a week in the office and the rest of their time spent working remotely.

Fatima explains “While most of our students have experienced a remote studying model at university during the pandemic, many of them won’t have experienced hybrid working before. And with our students on the programme based all across the country, it was really important to us that we had a robust support team in place as they adapted to this new way of working.”

Fatima and her dedicated placement support team will be touching base with the students on a regular basis, as well as acting as a key point of contact for Simon and the students’ line managers at BNP Paribas Personal Finance UK. The success of the programme will also be monitored closely to measure impact on the students and their progression.

But it’s not just the students on the programme who are set to benefit from this new partnership, and Simon hopes that this will also have a positive impact on BNP Paribas Personal Finance UK as a business

He explains “While we hope the students will learn a lot from these placements, we also really value the skills and the fresh perspective they’ll bring to the team.

“In the wake of the pandemic, businesses like ours have had to diversify in terms of the channels we use for recruitment. So, it is our hope that, as well as solving a short-time problem in terms of filling roles in our operations team, this will also help to boost the business by strengthening our employer brand.

“For us, this partnership is not just about the here and now – and this valuable insight into what graduates are looking for in an employer will also help us to futureproof our business.

“By getting out in front of students at this early stage, what we are essentially doing is building our profile as an employer in the region. And from our perspective, this is a much more effective way of engaging with the talent of tomorrow, as opposed to being just another advert from a faceless corporation. So hopefully it’s a win/win for all involved!”

To find out more about our commitment to supporting young people, read our positive impact report here.