The importance of going off the beaten path

Interview with Alexandre de Gmeline, in charge of HR, and Séverine Meyers, in charge of higher education partnerships, at the Crédit Agricole Sud Rhônes Alpes bank.

Why did you choose to participate in the GEM Ulysses program?

Crédit Agricole Sud Rhônes Alpes is looking to develop its relationships with higher education institutions. Following this strategy, it was logical for us to develop our relationship with a local player such as GEM. This relationship fits in with the Crédit Agricole Group's national strategy to develop relationships with business schools in France. The Ulysses program is part of this strategy and offers a win-win experience. Students work on real case studies with companies and we in return, receive a new and creative perspective on a specific issue. We cannot afford to stay locked in the same models forever. Participating in this innovative program is also a way to develop our employer brand and give our profession an attractive image.

Does a company such as the Crédit Agricole have a role to play in pedagogic innovation?

Yes. This is why we have created links with business schools such as GEM. Teaching must be adapted to match what is expected of future employees. It's important for it to integrate the constraints and realities of the real professional world, which are often overlooked by students. This is where we have a role to play and we are learning as we go along. While the immersion of Ulysses students is an occasional activity, it's part of a larger process. By combining this program with live business cases and a continuous dialogue with the School, we are creating a long-term innovative process.

What does this mean in terms of investment for the company?

It's mostly a question of taking the time to welcome and accompany students. We are all committed to this process and our General Manager was the one to launch the live business case. It's important that we be available to answer questions. This also means being able to reassess our own practices. Students sometimes bring up issues we had not anticipated. Keeping an open mind allows us to see things that fall outside of our usual habits and ideas. The Ulysses program is not the same as a placement year or a work/study program. It's not so much about managing students as it's about listening to them, accompanying them and orienting them towards the right people so they can work efficiently.