Olivier Calandreau: around the world in one career on three continents
Olivier Calandreau’s career has taken him from one end of the globe to the other -and back again. As the Representative Director and CEO of BNP Paribas Cardif Korea, Olivier has spent more than 18 years working in India, Argentina, Taiwan and Chile, including some time back in Paris to complete the EMBA (Master of Business Administration) program at HEC Paris. His career has seen many successful product launches, strategic shifts, and positions on executive boards already. Hearing him talk about it, though, it sounds like he’s just getting started.
Where in the world…?
Olivier’s career began in 1998, after completing two Masters degrees in Actuarial Science and Applied Mathematics & Computer Engineering. His first job was based in Paris, at PricewaterhouseCoopers, but his ambitions were elsewhere. “I was always looking beyond France,” he says.
So he accepted an offer at BNP Paribas Cardif, where he oversaw product pricing and business planning for Spain and Portugal (perfecting his Spanish in the process). One year later, he was on his way to Mumbai, where he worked as Deputy Appointed Actuary at SBI Life Insurance, a joint venture between State Bank of India and BNP Paribas Cardif. After five years he returned to BNP Paribas Cardif, as the Chief Actuary and Financial Director in Buenos Aires. Rapidly climbing up the ladder at offices in Taiwan and Chile, he soon reached a crossroads in his career.
“I had been very successful up to that point, and I felt like I had gained a lot of knowledge,” he explains.
But I started feeling restless, and I felt that I couldn’t connect the pieces—I needed a 360-degree view of the company.” Olivier Calandreau
“A little bit about everything”
Olivier began looking into MBA programs, though he had some constraints. He needed a program that was flexible enough to accommodate his job and growing family, yet global and expansive enough to provide him with the skills he would need to advance his career. For him, HEC Paris was the perfect fit.
The EMBA program exposed him to other executives from all over the globe, each bringing new perspectives and expertise to the classroom. “If you had 25 people in a class, there would be 25 different answers to the same question,” he says with a laugh. “You really can’t underestimate the impact and value of diversity on the learning process.”
Olivier focused on marketing and corporate strategy, though he left the program feeling skilled in a wide range of areas. “One of the best things about the EMBA program is that you learn a bit about everything through a well dosed mix of fundamental theories and practical business cases,” he says. “And that’s what really matters when you’re building up your management toolkit for a CEO position.”
Going forward with the right questions
After completing the program, Olivier did indeed become CEO of BNP Paribas Cardif General Insurance in Seoul, where he’s now focused on helping the company get off the ground and become profitable. He’s not sure how long that will take, or where his next stop will be, but he feels prepared for whatever comes next.
“Some of the best career advice I ever received was ‘Think slow, act fast.’ This means really putting in the time to listen to others and assess pros and cons before making a decision. That’s also the best way to get a majority of people involved. But you must take action as soon as you’ve made up your mind. Confronting your ideas with reality is the best way to find out if you’re right.”