July 29, 1962 |
|Alma mater||École Polytechnique
École Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Paris
Tidjane Thiam (born 29 July 1962) is an Ivorian businessman and former politician who is the Chief Executive of Prudential plc, the UK-based insurance group. Born in Côte d'Ivoire, he holds dual Ivorian and French citizenship. He studied advanced mathematics and physics in France before joining the management consultants McKinsey & Company in 1986, where he worked until 1994. From 1994 to 1999 he worked in Côte d'Ivoire first as Chief Executive of the National Bureau for Technical Studies (BNETD), reporting directly to the Prime Minister and the President, and from 1998 as both Chairman of the BNETD and Minister of Planning and Development. Following the Ivorian coup of 1999, he resumed a private sector career and rejoined McKinsey in Paris from 2000 to 2002, then worked as a senior executive for Aviva before being recruited by Prudential. When appointed the chief executive of Prudential in 2009, he became the first black person to lead a FTSE 100 company.
Early life and career
Thiam was born in Côte d'Ivoire. He is a descendant of two prominent African families. On his mother’s side, he is a direct descendant of Yamousso, after whom the capital of Côte d'Ivoire, Yamoussoukro, is named. Thiam’s mother, Marietou, was the niece of Felix Houphouët-Boigny, the founder and first President of Côte d'Ivoire.
His father, Amadou Thiam, a journalist, was born in Senegal and emigrated to Côte d'Ivoire in 1947. He supported Houphouet-Boigny in his fight for the independence of the country and served more than 10 years in the Ivorian cabinet after independence. He was a Grand Officier de la Legion d’honneur, France’s highest order of decoration. Tidjane’s uncle, Habib Thiam, was Prime Minister of Senegal for more than 10 years and also served as President of the National Assembly.
In 1982 Thiam was the first Ivorian to pass the entrance examination to the École Polytechnique in Paris. In 1984, he graduated from the École Polytechnique and in 1986 from the École Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Paris where he was top of his class.
In 1986 he was offered a scholarship to study for an MBA at INSEAD and join the 'McKinsey Fellows Programme' in Paris. He received an MBA from INSEAD in 1988 (Dean's list). In 1989 he took a one-year sabbatical from McKinsey to participate in the World Bank's Young Professionals Program in Washington, D.C. He returned to McKinsey in 1990, working first in New York City and then in Paris.
In December 1993, the first Ivorian President, Felix Houphouët-Boigny, died and was replaced by Henri Konan Bédié. In April 1994, at the request of the new President, Thiam left France and McKinsey to go back to Abidjan and become the CEO of the National Bureau for Technical Studies and Development (BNETD), an infrastructure development and economic advisory body with more than 4,000 staff, reporting directly to the President and the Prime Minister. In that role, which had cabinet rank, he was also handling key negotiations with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Thiam was also a key member of the Privatization Committee, in charge of privatising extensive state-owned assets.
In August 1998, in addition to his role at the BNETD, where he became chairman, Thiam formally joined the cabinet and was appointed Minister of Planning and Development. In his years in Côte d'Ivoire, Thiam promoted private sector involvement in infrastructure development. He implemented flagship projects including the Azito power plant (nominated by the Financial Times as one of the boldest successful investment decisions in the world, the renovation of Abidjan airport and the construction of the Riviera Marcory toll bridge, whose financing was closed a few days before the 1999 coup. One of the first actions of the new President, Alassane Ouattara, in 2011 was to start the construction of that bridge as originally overseen by Thiam, with the same promoters.
Thiam actively promoted an extensive privatisation programme which saw, between 1994 and 1999, Côte d'Ivoire lead African countries by privatising its telephone, services, electric power generation, airports, railways and many companies in the agricultural sector.
In December 1999, whilst Thiam was abroad, the Ivorian military seized control of the government. Thiam returned to the country, where he was arrested and held for several weeks. General Guéï, the new head of state, offered him the position of chief of staff, but he declined and left the country in early 2000.
Return to finance
On returning to Europe, Thiam was offered a partnership by McKinsey in Paris, becoming one of the leaders of the company's financial institutions practice. In 2002 he joined Aviva, initially as group strategy and development director, then as managing director of Aviva International, chief executive of Aviva Europe and an executive director, sitting on the plc board. In January 2007, after Richard Harvey announced he would step down as chief executive of Aviva, Thiam was tipped as a possible future head of the group.
CEO of Prudential
He left Aviva in September 2007 to become chief financial officer of Prudential plc. In March 2009, Thiam was named chief executive, effective from October, after Mark Tucker chose to step down. The appointment made him the first black person to lead a FTSE 100 listed company.
After he became chief executive, Prudential launched a bid for AIA, the Asian wing of the crisis-stricken AIG. A public battle ensued, with some investors complaining about the $35.5 billion price Prudential was offering to pay. The bid eventually failed, after the AIG board rejected a revised lower bid. AIA was later floated on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, and the value of the company quickly rose above Prudential’s original bid price.
Thiam came under strong personal criticism following the failure of the bid, partly as a result of the costs incurred by the company in pursuing the bid. However, he was re-elected as CEO at the May 2011 AGM with a 99.3 per cent vote. The company's performance since the bid appears not to have been damaged by its failure - in the first nine months of 2011, Prudential delivered a 14 per cent increase in new business profits over the same period in 2010, with total insurance sales increasing by 10 per cent.
International development work
In October 1999 Thiam was appointed by James Wolfensohn as one of 20 members of the External Advisory Council of the World Bank Institute, which the Institute relies on for advice and guidance.
Thiam is a member of the Africa Progress Panel (APP), a group of ten distinguished individuals who advocate at the highest levels for equitable and sustainable development in Africa. Every year, the Panel releases a report, the Africa Progress Report, that outlines an issue of immediate importance to the continent and suggests a set of associated policies. In 2012, the Africa Progress Report highlighted issues of Jobs, Justice, and Equity. The 2013 report will outline issues relating to oil, gas, and mining in Africa.
In January 2011 Thiam was appointed Chairman of the G20’s High Level Panel on Infrastructure Investment. Established by the Seoul G20 summit in 2010, the panel was a grouping of figures from leading financial institutions and development agencies given the task of producing concrete proposals to encourage private sector investment in infrastructure projects in emerging economies. The panel submitted its report to the G20 Summit meeting in Cannes in November 2011.
Thiam is chairman of the Association of British Insurers and a member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum. He was a non-executive director of the French chemicals company Arkema until November 2009.
In 2007, Thiam was elected INSEAD Alumnus of the Year by the Insead Alumnus Association. In 2009, he was nominated as one of "50 Alumni who changed the world" as part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of INSEAD and its 38,000 graduates.
He was ranked number one in both 2010 and 2011 by the annual publication the Powerlist, which ranks the 100 most influential black people in the UK.
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