Written on 07 Nov 2019.
At only 31 years old, Kévin Barrois (EMBA 2020) is Chief Financial Officer of the N3C Group - the leader in the refrigeration and HVAC market based in the North of Paris. His impressive achievements have earned him the distinction of being one of three finalists for the Prix du Jeune Financier 2019 (Young Financier Award). We had the privilege and pleasure of meeting up with Kevin, who is following the EDHEC Executive MBA programme whilst continuing his inspiring career.
My original career path was as a Chartered Accountant. I studied at the Higher Institute of Expertise and Audit (ISEA) in Lille, where I obtained a License, then a Master of Accounting, Control and Audit. To become a Chartered Accountant you normally have to complete three years of internship and prepare a thesis: so after my studies I joined an accounting firm. I found the work okay, but I didn’t love it. I was carrying out assessments for companies when I had never even been to their office before. I didn’t know the human stories that hid behind the figures I was aggregating. Quickly, I had the feeling that my work did not make sense for me; I wanted to live a more embodied experience and work closer to the activity of a company and the people in it.
Indeed. I didn’t finish the required three years of internship. Instead, I decided I wanted to work inside a company. I was 25 years old. Sometimes your path in life is determined by luck: I had the good fortune to meet an entrepreneur who I made an immediate connection with – and who is now my current boss and a key factor in my career path! Nicolas Bourgois, head of the N3C Group (a company established 10 years ago and experiencing good growth) was in the process of acquiring the group and offered me the opportunity to support the negotiation process. We finalized the acquisition deal together and then I was offered the role of Group Administrative and Financial Director. At an age when, in this profession, one is rather assistant of Director of Finance or even assistant of assistant, it was a unique opportunity.
From a financial point of view, what is interesting about the N3C Group is the fact that it is independent, which is against the current financial trend of institutionalizing the capital of a company by bringing in private equity funds, for example. As Director of Finance, my strategy is not to follow the trend. On the contrary, our goal is to be the first French independent in our sector.
I have a very transversal vision of my role, which I consider out of any silo. In general, financiers are not perceived as great communicators... But I always said that I did not want to be in an expert position yet inaccessible or talk about my job in an over-complicated way. It's a key part of my responsibilities, I believe, to make our employees understand the financial situation of the company so that they feel invested and more involved. For me, the finance department brings together all the players in the company. The technician who works closely with the customer is essential to finance and vice versa because in our business, everything is linked: if the technician performs well, then the finances will be good. Everything is open in our team and business - starting with the door to my office. This corporate culture, which is driven by our CEO, immediately made sense to me.
" It's a key part of my responsibilities, I believe, to make our employees understand the financial situation of the company so that they feel invested and more involved. For me, the finance department brings together all the players in the company. "
I was young when I became a Director of Finance. After 6 years in the position, I wanted to open up new horizons and develop my soft skills. For me, the technical skills are nothing without the human skills. I often think of this famous Zig Ziglar quote: "It's your attitude, more than your aptitude, that determines your altitude." The human is at the heart of my strategy and all the decisions I make on a daily basis. Following an EMBA seemed like an opportunity for me to develop this dimension.
This choice was obvious to me. Firstly, because for many years EDHEC is consistently ranked as a TOP 5 business school and is particularly recognised for its excellence in the field of finance. But also - and especially - because it embodies the values of Northern France which, as a northerner, are dear to me: the work obviously, but also the conviviality and humanity, a dimension of welcome and of openness that is just as essential.
I am delighted. The class is made up of professionals from very different backgrounds, which leads to many exciting debates and exchanges of experience that gives me a completely new perspective on many topics. The speakers are also very relevant, and I appreciate that they are listening to our points of view. We are far from the lectures of the classical education system.
This work on oneself is really transforming. I realised that until now I had advanced in my career without questioning in depth my life goals. Today, more and more people are changing their career at age 40 or 45, in search of meaning. To avoid missing out on life and finding the right balance between personal and professional life, it seems essential to me to learn to ask the right questions well in advance. That's also why I'm careful to make time for interests outside of work too, such as aviation, which I used to practice with my grandfather when I was young - everything looks better from above! I'm currently in the process of getting my licence and I really love it. My grandfather always said that he would spend more time flying when he retired but he died a year and a half before he could do it... This really stuck with me. My generation realises that personal growth is just as important as professional development, and I find it important. I find this culture in the EMBA.
" I was young when I became a Director of Finance. After 6 years in the position, I wanted to open up new horizons and develop my soft skills. Because for me the technical skills are nothing without the human skills."
The award was created as part of the CFO of the Year Award, to recognize young professionals in the sector and to salute their personality and commitment to their job. The organizers contacted me and asked me to be a candidate and I said yes without a thought. In all honesty, I mainly thought that it was a great way to highlight my team and to talk about the company.
First, I completed a very detailed file on my achievements within the N3C, our strategy and the results obtained. Based on this information, I was then short-listed to participate in an audition at PwC. I presented in front of an audience of Financial Directors from big companies like Thales, Danone, Bonduelle and Michelin, and answered their questions. This whole process has been an opportunity to focus and refine my work and my strategic approach. For that alone, it has already been extremely interesting.
It’s nice, of course! But I am especially happy for my team – this nomination recognises the work of all of my collaborators. We were a team of four when I arrived and we are 11 today. Although it is my name that is on the nomination, without their work, nothing could work.
Today, it is a pleasure for me to get up in the morning to go to work, so I think the best thing that I can wish for is that it continues!
As part of the Young Financial Award 2019, the three finalists are decided by a jury and by the vote of the public. You can support Kévin Barrois in just one click: le Prix du jeune financier 2019 (voting open until December 5).