BNP Paribas Manager Exits Wall Street for New York Creperie

Jul 09, 2014 10:24 am ET

(Updates with banker departures in penultimate paragraph.)

July 9 (Bloomberg) -- Florent Cohen is swapping credit derivatives and mortgage bonds for eggs and flour.

Cohen, a risk manager for BNP Paribas SA in New York, is leaving France’s largest bank next week to start a crepe business. The 34-year-old said he’s opening Crepes & Delices within the month to bring French flavors and quick service to Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

“I was very happy at BNP, but I wanted to do something different and I wasn’t as excited as I used to be working in finance,” said Cohen, a French native who previously traded derivatives and mortgage debt during eight years at the bank. “I didn’t go to a culinary school but I did a two-week-long training program in France to learn to make crepes.”

Cohen is the second French bond executive in the U.S. to quit finance and pursue cooking dreams in the last month. Jeremie Banet left Newport Beach, California-based Pacific Investment Management Co. to start a food-truck business selling croque monsieurs, or ham-and-cheese sandwiches, in Los Angeles and Orange County.

Cohen said he devoured the French staple during economic undergraduate studies in Paris. In February he went to Brittany, France, to hone his skills making the thin pancakes, which are filled with sweets, such as chocolate spreads, or savory ingredients, like cheese and meat. He’s found co-investors for the restaurant from New York and France and plans to expand to beyond Manhattan.

“I’m confident crepes can work in all the major cities in the U.S.,” he said.

Bankers Departing

Cesaltine Gregorio, a BNP Paribas spokeswoman, declined to comment.

Cohen is leaving as Wall Street struggles to retain some employees who are intent on setting up their own businesses amid lower pay and increased scrutiny from regulators. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that the number of employees aged 25 to 34 in the New York metropolitan area in finance and insurance fell to 109,187 as of the second quarter of 2013, down 19 percent from the second quarter of 2007.

BNP Paribas has some of it own challenges. The bank agreed last month to pay $8.97 billion and plead guilty to U.S. sanctions violations on a settlement that includes a yearlong ban on handling certain dollar transactions.

--With assistance from Mary Childs and Dawn Kopecki in New York.