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Tidjane Thiam

Last Updated: 4/7/2007 10:05:59 PM

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Former Ivorien cabinet minister and now executive director of insurance multinational.......


Tidjane Thiam
Tidjane Thiam

Born 44 years ago in Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire, Tidjane Thiam spent his early years in Cote D'Ivoire and Morocco, before his family moved to Paris, France. It was in France the he began to show early evidence of his prodigious ability. Between 1984 and 1988 he received degrees from three of France's most prestigious academic institutions. In 1984 he received an Engineering degree from Ecole Polythechnique in Paris, in 1986 he received a degree in Civil Engineering (top of his class) from Ecole National Superieure des Mines de Paris and in 1988 he obtained an MBA (dean's list) from INSEAD at Fontainbleau.

Prior to starting the MBA he had joined the international consultancy McKinsey and company and spent the next eight years in Paris, New York and across the European Union leading operational and financial restructuring as well as M&A advisory engagements for financial and industrial clients. In 1989 he took a one-year sabbatical from McKinsey with the World Bank in Washington, D.C. to participate in the Young Professionals Program.

It was while he was at McKinsey that Tidjane Thiam received at unexpected phone call from home. He was out at the time but a simple message was left on his answering machine requesting him to have lunch with the Ivorien president. Cote D'Ivoire was in transition, it's first and only President Felix Houphet-Boigny had passed away after 33 years of rule. Although a one-party autocrat, Houphet-Boigny had presided on the one of the most stable and prosperous economies in West Africa. This stability began to ebb away under the rule of his successor Henri Konan Bedie, and it was he who came looking to Thiam in effort to strengthen his political and economic team.

He took charge of the National Bureau for Technical Studies and Development and later became minister for development and it was in this capacity he oversaw the construction and commissioning of the Africa's first privately financed power plant. The culmination of these efforts saw him nominated in December 1999 by the World Economic Forum to its "Dream Cabinet".

The changing political landscape in Cote D'Ivoire was soon to catch with him. A coup fronted by General Robert Guei overthrow the government of Bedie and ended Thiam's involvement in government. Although offered a position in the new military government he declined and returned to McKinsey where he rose to the position of Partner. It was from there he was head hunted by Aviva plc the world's fifth largest and UK's biggest insurance company as the Group Strategy and Development Director. He has since risen to become Managing Director Aviva International and the Chief Executive of Aviva Europe.

Thiam also serves on the British Prime Minister's commission for Africa and sits on the External Advisory Council of the World Bank.



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