The Chamber opens its doors to Claudine Smith, President of the CCFN and CEO of BNP Paribas Norway

Could you please tell us about your professional journey in Norway? 

I moved to Norway in September 1985, joining IBM Norway after spending close to three years with IBM in the USA and France. Starting work on my first day in Norway was crucial for me to familiarize myself with the country and to swiftly learn the language. My eagerness to integrate into Norwegian society was driven not only by my marriage to a Norwegian but also by my desire to contribute and build a meaningful career. This spirit led me to leave IBM and join Jøtul, one of Norway's oldest companies with a very strong Norwegian identity and then part of the Aker Norcem group, where I utilized my international sales and marketing skills.

After some years, Jøtul's headquarters moved from Oslo to Fredrikstad. I commuted for over a year, but when our first daughter was born, I decided to pivot again despite Jøtul’s willingness to accommodate my situation and great career opportunities. I transitioned to the banking industry, and as Jøtul’s CEO predicted, I would stay long if I did not leave within three years. My banking career has indeed spanned over 30 years, first with Nordea and then with BNP Paribas. Today, as CEO of BNP Paribas in Norway, I thoroughly enjoy being an active participant in the Norwegian business community, working closely with both Norwegian and international clients and numerous stakeholders.


How do you analyze the evolution of French-Norwegian business relations in recent years? In which areas do you foresee the most potential for future cooperation?


I have been a part of the French-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce (CCFN) network since the mid-90s. Watching the ties between Norway and France grow over the years has been both inspiring and rewarding. The economic and educational connections have indeed strengthened remarkably, especially since the Troll Gas Agreement in 1996.  Today’s paradigm is however different. Forged by climate, geopolitical, and societal challenges, it underscores the necessity for enhanced cooperation within Europe.

The CCFN has consistently been ahead of the curve. For instance, in 2016, the CCFN invited its members to learn about Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in Pau, France. Few understood then that CCS would become integral to achieving Net Zero, with Norway launching the first commercial large scale CCS project, Longship/Northern Lights, involving French, Norwegian, and Dutch interests — with Equinor, Total Energies, and Shell as sponsors. Furthermore, earlier this year, the CCFN played a pivotal role, alongside both embassies and Innovation Norway, in driving France and Norway to sign a strategic agreement on Green Industries.

While tourism, “Art of living”, consumer goods and energy remain vital areas of exchange, I am particularly excited about the potential in technological innovation. The transition to a low-carbon society, focusing on new energies such as offshore wind and hydrogen, and the growing impact of Artificial Intelligence across all industries, present immense opportunities. This will naturally lead to more collaboration in education and lifelong learning, ensuring that both nations can adapt and thrive in the future.


You have been actively involved in the development of the CCFN for over 20 years. What new impetus do you wish to give during your mandate as President?

Why change a successful recipe? The inclusive approach of the CCFN is its greatest strength in my view. By encouraging members from both countries to share their knowledge and perspectives in a trusted setting, and contribute ideas and propositions, being a bridge between the public and the private sectors,  the CCFN will continue to lead the way in fostering cooperation between France and Norway. Moreover, I trust that the CCFN’s permanent team, led by Ludovic Caubet, will remain a “Force de Proposition,” assisting both entrepreneurs and established companies in innovating, exporting, and co-investing.  I will certainly do my best to inspire, contribute and support them.


What advice would you give to a French company looking to develop their business in Norway? And to a Norwegian company aiming to export to France?

Simply reach out to the CCFN and their partners in Team Norway in Paris and Team France Export, as well as the network of the French Trade Advisors CNCCEF | French Foreign Trade Advisors.

Last but not least, I take this opportunity to thank Their Excellencies Ambassadors Florence Robine and Nils Engelschiøn, as well as their respective teams, for their strong support.



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