Floodlights Illuminate Ambitious Partnership Between HEC and Natixis
Natixis, the brand of Groupe BPCE global financial services and HEC Paris signed a new partnership destined to boost the school’s sports infrastructures and promote a groundbreaking HEC-Natixis Mixed Rugby World Cup at university level. The September 20 ceremony reinforces the ties between HEC and Natixis, a subsidiary of the BPCE group, four years after the bank sponsored the X-HEC Business Analytics for future banking Chair.
In a ceremony characterized by good humor and bonhomie, Natixis CEO Nicolas Namias, in charge of the global division of Groupe BPCE gathering corporate & investment banking (Natixis CIB) and asset & wealth management activities (Natixis IM) and HEC Paris Dean Eloïc Peyrache signed in an accord destined to catalyze the development of HEC men and women’s rugby, both internally and internationally. On the domestic level, the investment bank will sponsor the construction of new, environmentally-friendly floodlights for the campus rugby field, to be rebaptized Natixis Rugby Stadium. On the international front, Natixis is to back an HEC initiative to create a mixed World Cup rugby tournament destined for higher education institutions. “This partnership once again reflects our joint commitment to sports, in particular rugby which incarnates shared values of solidarity and collective effort,” said Namias in front of a mixed audience of HEC staff and students and Natixis representatives. “We are delighted to further our relationship with Natixis through projects which increase access to sports and education for both women and men,” added Peyrache, who insisted on the link between athletes and social impact.
The partnership includes the construction of four 20-meter high floodlights to illuminate the rugby pitch, using LED technology (Light Emitting Diode). This reduces electricity consumption by up to eight times and increases durability by six times compared to the traditional bulbs on the market. “This engagement towards reducing energy costs is part of the sustainability drive at the heart of Natixis’ ESG (Ethical, Social Governance) policies instigated years ago,” confides Nicolas Namias. “Such sustainability strategies are one of the three reasons we consider us very attractive for HEC students. We have been involved in sustainable financing since the early 2000s, way before other banking structures. It gave rise to Mirova, our conviction-based asset management firm devoted to sustainable investment or our Green Weighting Factor in the corporate & investment banking, to decarbonize our balance sheet with a view to aligning on the 2°C trajectory set out in the Paris Agreement.”
Cécile Tricon-Brossard, Natixis Chief Human Resources, elaborates on the two other reasons: “It’s great to start with Natixis because we are a human-size company open to dialogue and autonomy, which is praised by the young graduates who join us. And we propose a wide range of jobs, from finance to risk management, in France and abroad.” The multinational nature of the financial services firm (around 100 nationalities in the 35 countries it is based in) does indeed reflect HEC’s own cosmopolitan student body.
While the school’s RCH men’s and FHR women’s rugby clubs are slowly integrating students from all geographical horizons, the latter has already made its mark on the international scene. “We won the national French cup four times and last year we celebrated our 20 years of existence by taking the inter-university championship in Rome,” says winger Agathe. “In this respect, we’re ahead of the men’s team, but last year they showed great improvement to take third place in the national championships.” Fellow-journeywoman, Anne-Sarah, underlines the growing popularity of rugby for both sexes at HEC. “This is especially the case amongst the women student population,” explains the open-side flanker. “Our numbers have spiraled up from just four in 2004 to 60 nowadays. We’re not far behind the 80 who’ve signed up for RCH men’s team.”
Breaking the World Cup Rugby Mold
Which makes the prospect of mixed seven-a-side rugby tournament all the more enticing. This seven-a-side touch rugby variant is gaining traction in France where almost 170 mixed rugby clubs have been set up to play over half-fields for matches that last between 12 and 20 minutes. RCH prop forward Vincent sees a federating spirit which can accelerate the school’s drive to establish a world university championship in the coming years. “There are times we train together - it’s mutually beneficial and more physically demanding than you would think. I can see the idea really taking off after the years of progress we’ve enjoyed separately.”
Much of this progress can be put down to Florent Guichard who spent 12 years as HEC rugby coach before moving on to a top coaching position at Racing 92, one of France’s Top 14 club. Tellingly, Racing 92 have been backed by Natixis for the past 15 years during which time they have flirted with the summit of European club rugby. “A university world championship makes sense, since it federates the students in ways no other discipline can do,” Guichard insists. Christophe Mombet concurs. After years coaching some of France’s top club and national teams, Mombet is the Director of Racing 92’s training school. “The idea of a mixed rugby world championship is an excellent one, as long as clear rules are established to prevent tackles, scrums and other strong physical contact. By combining the know-how at Racing 92 with Natixis’ 15 years of involvement in top-level rugby and HEC’s sporting and business talent sounds, I feel we have the ingredients for a winning recipe.”
Nicolas Namias sees this as a perfect triangle around a shared passion for rugby. “This Natixis-HEC-Paris partnership around mixed rugby echoes our shared commitment to parity, which is fundamental to our working environment. Accompanying HEC’s project for a world university tournament was obvious to us from the get-go since it is so aligned with our own professional ambitions.” The business school now aims at presenting the pilot phase of the HEC-Natixis Mixed Rugby World Cup by the end of 2022, with a second edition in 2023.
Three questions to Nicolas Namias, Natixis CEO
Why was it important to support sporting initiatives like improving HEC’s rugby facilities and backing the school’s drive for a mixed rugby world cup?
Nicolas Namias: We are very proud to back these renovations and contribute spotlights for students to play during those dark winter evenings. There’s a form of continuity since Laurent Mignon, CEO of Groupe BPCE and previously of Natixis, is a 1986 HEC graduate who has a great passion for rugby. The technical choices are coherent with our environmental convictions, replacing halogen with LED lighting, for example. And this partnership once again testifies to our company’s unwavering support for women athletes, like our warm support of the Racing 92 feminine rugby team. We are proud that the BPCE Group is a Premium Partner of the Olympic a Paralympics in Paris 2024. In this context, we support male and female athletes in their preparation of the games.
How does this new project fit in with Natixis' already strong commitment to HEC, as seen through its foundational support for the "Analytics for Future Banking" Chair, created in 2018 with the Ecole Polytechnique?
We see this as a continuation of such initiatives. Every year, the students in this program work intensively on real and complex data science algorithms we submit and help us improve our operating efficiency, thus developing new value-added services. I must say that we are impressed year in, year out, by the quality of their work and presentations. and we've been able to use the most outstanding solutions they presented in our business practices.
Today’s event is the latest in a series of exchanges you have enjoyed with HEC and its students this past year...
Yes, and I retain a wonderful souvenir of my two-hour debate with them at the end of last year, centered on the challenges of the energy transition. I felt the enthusiasm we at Natixis share for putting purpose at the heart of our company policies. We have been investing in this direction and we feel that both Natixis and HEC can and must participate in addressing the three main challenges of our time: environmental, technological and societal transitions.