“Think globally, act locally” is more than a catch phrase for this CEO and sports fan
By Françoise Rhodes
In March, tennis fans worldwide are focused on the Indian Wells Tennis Garden and the BNP Paribas Open, one of the top events in the sport.
With the spotlight shining brightly on the venue, as well as on title sponsor BNP Paribas and its subsidiary Bank of the West, it’s time to meet Jean-Yves Fillion, CEO of BNP Paribas USA and chairman of CIB Americas.
Fillion started at BNP Paribas 35 years ago and has lived in the U.S. for 28 years. A fixture throughout the Open, he’s the one at the tournament engaging with everyone from his corporate and institutional clients to community members, celebrities and tournament officials. If you’ve been to the tournament, chances are you’ve encountered Fillion as he makes his way from stadium to stadium to conduct interviews, present awards and chat with volunteers, visitors and clients. At the same time he has another serious mission: to make sure that the many programs BNP Paribas and Bank of the West bring each year to the tennis youth of the Coachella Valley are on track and running smoothly.
As Fillion generously offers his time to us, the interview must flow with his commitments. We begin in the administrative office boardroom, move to the BNP Paribas Suite, back to another administrative suite and then to the media center for a press announcement and interviews with four local high school students, each of whom received a $15,000 college grant from the BNP Paribas Open Scholarship program. Seated next to the students, Fillion is obviously proud of this program. He directs the media to talk with the students, whom he has come to know on a first-name basis.
Born and raised in the French Alps near the Swiss border, Fillion learned to sail on Lake Geneva. He’s an accomplished laser sailboat competitor and describes his other hobbies as a “recreational tennis player, golfer and skier.”
He also humbly mentions that he’s a member of the board of governors for the International Tennis Hall of Fame, a former member of the French National Sailing Team and an active member of the New York Yacht Club and American Yacht Club. Currently residing in New York, Fillion states “I am French/American spending most of my life in the United States. I love California and lived here for 11 years.”
Sitting with Fillion, it’s easy to feel his dedication to BNP Paribas and the tournament that bears the bank’s name. He frequently uses words such as sustainability, values, teams and diversity. “It’s about respecting the opponent and the people you work with,” he says, referring to tennis, business and life.
In answer to the question of how a French bank became the title sponsor of a tennis tournament in the Coachella Valley, Fillion says, “Tennis is part of the DNA of this bank.” The bank has been involved in tennis since the 1970s.
BNP Paribas was created in 2000 with the merger of Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP) and major investment bank Paribas. Currently Ranked in the top 10 for investment banking and wealth management globally with a presence in 72 countries, the bank’s history began in 1869 in France with the founding of Banque Nationale de Paris. In 1979, expansion included the acquisition of U.S.-based Bank of the West, a century-old regional institution dating to 1874.
Fillion says BNP Paribas and tennis are a perfect fit, a match that garners worldwide recognition on multimedia platforms benefitting the sport and the company.
Held at Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California, the BNP Paribas Open is the largest WTA and ATP World Tour combined two-week tennis event in the world with a total purse of over $15 million, and it’s highly regarded by players and fans alike. Since 2014, the event has been annually named the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Tournament of the year and the WTA Premier Mandatory Tournament of the Year.
What patrons of any BNP Paribas partnered event might miss, however, is the local philanthropic connection. “To be global,” Fillion says, “you need to be local.”
The bank’s dedication to philanthropic endeavors has resulted in worldwide programs addressing gender diversity, hospital in-patient programs for the young, scholarship programs, wheelchair tennis and junior and university tennis and academics.
Recently announced is an addition to the expansive youth programs, Team BNP Paribas Mac1. With the help of John and Patrick McEnroe, the project’s goal is to turn today’s hopefuls into tomorrow’s champions. It expands on programs recently launched in France with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and the French Tennis Federation, as well as the BNP Paribas Kids Fete le Mur Team partnership with Yannick Noah.
Excited about the Mac1 program, Fillion notes with pride that the bank has been engaged in major philanthropic initiatives for more than 30 years through its BNP Paribas Foundation, which focuses on activities in three main areas: arts, social inclusion and the environment, donating over 40 million Euros (equivalent to $45,388,520 U.S. dollars) each year.
Fresh off extending the title sponsorship of the BNP Paribas Open once again, this time to 2023, Fillion does not think in terms of endings. “This is not the finish line,” he says. “It is the starting line.”
Françoise Rhodes is a staff writer with Desert Golf & Tennis