Top job: Paul Cann, HR director, Groupama Insurances

Where were you working before and what were your responsibilities?

I was head of HR operations at ING Wholesale Banking, managing a team responsible for client services, projects, processes, payroll, budgets, risk and controls.

What qualifications do you hold?

I have a BSc in management sciences from the London School of Economics.

What are the duties in your new role?

Leading the HR team and driving the people strategy at Groupama Insurances, including the continuing development of our people, our investment in talent and building a great place to work.

What are the main challenges HR faces in the next five years?

Helping the business to out-perform our competitors in what is one of the most dynamic and competitive insurance markets in the world.

What is the most overrated tool in your job?

E-mail, but only if it is over-used in preference to other communications methods, or misused – for example, sending e-mail questions to the person next to you.

And what work tool would you like to see invented?

Something that freezes time for a couple of hours would be rather useful.

What is the worst thing about HR?

Sometimes you have to deal head on with the situations that no-one else in the business would touch.

How do you wind down after a bad day at the office?

Coming home to my four-year-old daughter tends to put things in perspective.

What is the strangest situation you have been in at work?

At one company, a male employee was so dissatisfied with what he saw as an unfair dress policy that he turned up to work in a dress. We decided the best course of action was to ignore him until he got bored with wearing it.

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Focused, pragmatic, and personable.

What was your lucky break?

The creation of the position of head of HR operations at ING significantly broadened my HR knowledge – ultimately facilitating my move to Groupama.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Footballer Eric Cantona, comedian Peter Kay and property expert Kirstie Allsopp.

What advice would you give someone starting out in HR?

Do not underestimate how demanding a profession it is. You need to be confident, strong-willed, outgoing and thick skinned. If you are after a fluffy career, HR is not for you.

What job would you like your children to do?

Anything that pays well enough to keep me in luxury in my old age.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

Betting on England to win the World Cup.

Sum up your philosophy on life in one sentence.

Don’t let them get you down.


Cann’s CV

  • Jul 2008-present – HR director, Groupama Insurances (general insurance)
  • Apr 2006-Jul 2008 – Head of HR operations, ING Wholesale Banking (investment banking)
  • May 2000-Apr 2006 – HR relationship manager, ING Wholesale Banking
  • Oct 1996-May 2000 – HR executive, WestLB (investment banking)

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