Where PhDs and companies meet

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From insurance to consulting

Evelyne Jardin

After doing her PhD in finance in the context of a CIFRE agreement signed between UAP/Axa and the University of Paris-Dauphine, Isabelle Pras was hired by Generali. What's she done since then?

Isabelle Pras stayed with Generali insurance working in the asset liability management department for seven years. Although the definition of the department's objectives didn't change, her daily routine varied considerably because the modeling techniques she studied during her doctorate were gradually imported into the world of insurance. But with time, Isabelle got tired of applying in her company job techniques she had experimented in her research years beforehand. She wanted to feel more like an "actor." By turning to consulting, she hoped to be able to develop the latest techniques produced by research. So she tried her chance at Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PWC), though she had no consulting experience. What's more, she knew the competition would be tough, because she didn't come out of the innermost circle of the grandes ecoles and she's not an actuary, “the benchmark in the area of insurance,” Isabelle notes. In spite of all this, she got over the first hurdle: She was called in for a series of interviews. Four of them in all, instead of the usual three. A sign of hesitation on the recruiters’ part? Maybe, but in any event, Isabelle had to convince her interviewers of the skills she had acquired during her education through research, which included advanced knowledge, the capacity for self-management, and sharp reasoning skills. She had to reassure them as well.

Neither a freewheeler nor an intellectual (the stereotypical image of PhDs), she had experience working in teams and fieldwork, and knew how to be in tune to the clients’ needs. Her years at Generali attest to this. Message received loud and clear. In May 2006, Isabelle became a manager at PWC with two areas of responsibility. She is involved in consulting (of course) in the field of insurance (still) and she takes part in new product development.
Her job offers her plenty of variety and flexibility in organizing her time, as well as a comfortable salary, some of it in the form of commissions. Isabelle enjoys her new work environment and continues to move in a circle in which PhDs are rare.