Three National Bank employees at the ITF Young Seniors World Championship Helping employees bring personal projects to life and supporting the development of local tennis talent are two important goals for the National Bank. That’s why the institution is offering financial support to three employees who will be participating in the ITF Young Seniors World Championships in March 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa. Interview. The small world of tennis Simon Tremblay-Larouche, Cristina Popescu and Mathieu Giguère have known each other since they started competing in the under-12s tennis circuit. “Simon and Mathieu both come from Quebec, and I would board with their families for tournaments when I was 11,” remembers Cristina Popescu, now Director of Equity Derivatives at the National Bank. Although he left the sport after university, Simon Tremblay-Larouche always knew he’d come back to tennis one day. “I knew that for players 35 and up there was a well-organized network of competitions,” he says. “I told myself I would get back into it a year or two before that, to be ready.” That’s exactly what he did, and he brought his partner on the courts, Mathieu Giguère, along for the ride. “Simon is my neighbour, so we often played together for fun. In January 2015, he suggested that we try out for the Canadian senior team,” Mathieu recalls. “I thought, ‘why not!’ We both qualified for the ITF World Championship in Croatia, where we played doubles.” As for Cristina Popescu, it was her sons who got her back on the court after an injury that put her out of commission in her third year on the American university circuit. “Two years ago, I decided that I wanted to get back into tennis because my two children play,” asserts the 37-year-old athlete. “The mental aspect of the sport, managing the stress… I want to show them that I can practice what I preach!” Balancing work, family… And tennis Going back to competitive sports while juggling full-time jobs and families is a major challenge for these three members of the Canadian senior tennis team. With his partner’s support, Simon Tremblay-Larouche manages to free up four or five hours a week to practice his sport of choice. “Every minute of training time needs to be optimized! And I have to stay in shape off the courts, too. To fit regular workouts in my everyday life, I sometimes run to work,” says the captain of the senior Canadian tennis team. Mathieu Giguère puts his money on yoga to round out his training. “I find time to play tennis three times a week,” he explains. “But since it’s a sport that’s really hard on the body, I also practice yoga to build strength, endurance and flexibility.” As a legal advisor, the position he holds at National Bank Financial helps him integrate sports into his schedule. “Compared to working for a law firm, my schedule is much more stable, which helps me plan my training. I’m also lucky to benefit from a certain amount of flexibility when I need to miss work for a competition.” Cristina Popescu and Simon Tremblay-Larouche enjoy a level of autonomy that makes it easier for them to manage their time. “I don’t have a fixed schedule, as long as my work gets done and I attend my important meetings,” says the 36-year-old player. “So, if I need to stretch my lunch break for a physiotherapy appointment, I can make up for it in the morning or the evening.” The support of the National Bank When Simon Tremblay-Larouche told his boss that he would be participating in the ITF Young Seniors World Championship for the first time, he suggested that Simon approach their employer for financial support. “Simon’s manager and Mathieu’s boss saw a valuable connection between the participation of three employees of the Bank in this world championship, and the agreement the institution has had with Tennis Canada since 2005,” explains Cristina Popescu. “We submitted a summary of our expenses for the championship in Croatia, and the Bank decided to give us financial support,” adds Simon Tremblay-Larouche. “And it’s happening again this year.” Beyond the financial aspect, National Bank also has a culture of encouraging employees to pursue their ideas… Even more so when it involves pushing their limits through physical activity! Returns here and abroad In addition to the natural alignment with the National Bank’s long involvement in the development of Canadian tennis, the support that the financial institution offers its three employees has positive returns in the country where the tournament is held, too. “In Croatia, where last year’s tournament was held, the economy is based on tourism. So, when hundreds of players arrive (as well as their families, and representatives of organizations like Tennis Canada), it feeds into the tourism industry, particularly hotels and restaurants,” asserts Simon Tremblay-Larouche. “It’s a complete coincidence that three Quebecers who work at the National Bank have ranked among the ten best players in the world in singles or doubles over the last year in the “young seniors” category,” Mathieu Giguère stresses. Of the eight players on the Canadian 35-39 team, three are employed by the Bank… And another is a former employee.” “This involvement sends an important message: You can practice a sport at a professional level at any age,” he concludes.