In the world of work as in everyday life, “no pain, no gain!”. That’s the slogan Yonatan Belhassen has stayed faithful to in all his professional activities, which have followed an upward curve, from his studies specialising in business-to-business commerce, to EMLV and the position he currently holds at Chubb, the world’s largest quoted non-life insurance company, specialising in premium asset protection.
Having graduated from EMLV in 2004, after 4 years of training and 2 work placements at Cap Gemini and American Express respectively, Yonatan Belhassen joined Chubb in September 2019 as commercial head of the key accounts segment.
Today, Yonatan reflects on his professional development and what he learned during his studies at business school, as well as his memories playing in a football team at Leonard de Vinci.
EMLV: a core curriculum favouring the choice of a specialisation
After obtaining my baccalaureate in sciences and economics at Notre-Dame de Meudon (in the suburbs of Paris), I shifted my attention towards EMLV in view of the quality of its teaching staff who had direct links to their subjects.
What really caught my attention was the possibility of an essentially practical rather than theoretical education. The entry interviews confirmed to me that it was the right choice.
Being able to pursue general studies for the first 2 years in order to choose between ‘Commerce’ or ‘Finance’, and then the choice of specialisation, which for me was the B2B component, were also big factors.
Lastly, I appreciated the importance given to the balance between studies and Pole sports activities. During my 4 years, I was able to wear the PULV colours in the football team, thereby sharing the values of a group I hold dear.
Thesis, work placement, networking, professional experience: the steps on a path of continued progress
My second-year placement was an opportunity for me to put to the skills I’d acquired thus far to good use, in the commercial management of outsourcing/managed services at Capgemini.
My second placement, at the end of the course, in key business accounts management at American Express, was eye-opening for me since I discovered strategic alliances between market actors. I ultimately chose to write my dissertation on this at the end of my studies.
Like many young graduates, despite having certain interests, I was uncertain about my career path. My objective on the B2B front was simple: secure the loyalty of key accounts before trying an opportunity in the development division, so that I’d be prepared to re-enter the banking and insurance market which I’d hugely enjoyed at Amex.
So I started my career at Arval as a commercial engineer for a year, with very interesting assignments given how young I was: buying thousands of vehicles, managing reports and managing logisitics.
The Randstad group then invited me to join them in the context of opening a Accounting and Finance agency, with the possibility of seeking new clients and participating in the hunt for candidates for roles including Financial and Administrative Director, management controller and treasurer.
This experience allowed me to put into practice what I’d learnt in my HR lessons at EMLV and to be in contact with the general and financial management of many clients.
It’s always important to maintain your networks and to communicate with your professional circle. Thanks to the intervention of the spouse of one of my colleagues, I was recruited by Europ Assistance ‘via the back door’ (the sense isn’t pejorative here: the fact is that Europ Assistance is primarily an assistance company and not an insurer) in their insurance division, joining a team of 3 regional managers in charge of key accounts and relations with brokers.
Besides discovering another new environment, in this role I could make the most of my passion for partnerships, by collaborating on certain products with Generali, but also by taking an interest in the issues faced by my clients/partners.
10 years at Aon, then at Chubb France
By developing a unique, white-label product for Aon, I attracted the attention of this world-renowned broker, and joined their Individual Accident and Special Risks teams with serious development opportunities.
Après 5 années passées dans des secteurs d’activité très différents, je pouvais enfin me poser et avancer sur le secteur visé au sein d’une structure internationale ou les évolutions sont nombreuses.
After spending 5 years in a wide range of sectors, I was finally able to settle down and move forward in my favoured sector in an international, rapidly evolving firm.
After 3 years in this department, seeking coverage for Egyptian expats in Iraq, victory bonuses for football clubs, and insuring advertising campaigns, I was able to join Aon’s International Department, with opportunity to manage all Japanese key accounts.
This was a chance to recall my general knowledge classes, and to use my English which I’d also practised a lot in my final year at EMLV. Once again, 3 years after graduating, I was continuing to progress, becoming key account manager responsible for managing all insurance risks of multinationals. My technical knowledge of insurance, as well my relationship with customers alongside a community of a risk managers and finance directors, both grew.
After 10 years of joint success with Aon’s teams, I joined Chubb as a sales manager for Key Accounts.
Chubb is an American general insurance company with truly global reach (30,000 employees spread across 54 countries), with management I would call “Anglo-Saxon”: accessible and very business-oriented.
This career shift has allowed me to develop my managerial skills, since I manage a team of about 10 people. I also use the expertise I gained at Aon to support the teams in meeting brokers’ and clients’ expectations.
Proactiveness and curiosity, two ingredients for success
The broad range of subjects offered at EMLV is clearly a bonus that broadens your mind and skills. For sure, with certain subjects, you’re not going into any depth, but the fundamentals are there, solid, and thanks to them I felt at ease in different environments.
I’ve never been driven by money in my career development: I always made my choice based on the challenge proposed and the new skills I would acquire. Better to have an upward curve than a line that quickly flattens out.
My objective today remains to develop my skills and satisfy my thirst for knowledge. In response to the question perpetually asked, where do you see yourself in 5 years, I would say that my life isn’t a motorway, but rather a path offering numerous possibilities for progress.
15 years on, the sense of belonging to EMLV is as strong as ever!
My 4 years at EMLV were extraordinary in every way, in terms of both my exchanges with classmates and the school environment itself.
Looking back, I feel that I couldn’t been in a better environment to progress and prepare myself for entering the job market.
As far as my skills and level allow, and time permitting, I would be delighted to be able to share with others what my superiors taught me (by way of testimonials, being an internship supervisor, taking tutorials, etc.)
I would be very happy if my experience could be of use to future students.
Pick your placements carefully!
Your choice of company placements is, in my view, vital in forming a clear idea of what you want to do or don’t want to do.
Some students get started late, or downplay the impact of this experience, or the time it takes…but it is vital.
When you leave the school, your only experience is what you gained from your placements. The only things making your CV stand out will be the name of the company and the work you undertook there. Always ask yourself what will give you an edge over your classmates!
Lastly, don’t think like those many young people who enter the job market thinking that they’re owed everything just because they have a degree.
The world of work is increasingly competitive. Never forget that you are the master of your professional career.
Forge your network, find a mentor, look to develop your skills, and with what you’ve gained from the Pole, you’ll be ready to succeed and achieve your goals!