What really makes the difference from my perspective is understanding both sides: on the one hand side – the IT people, on the other hand side – users’ and clients’ demands.
Please tell us a bit more about your educational background.
I studied theoretical physics, solid state physics – very math heavy theoretical fields in relation to high-Tc (high-temperature) superconductors.
After working in the scientific field for many years, how and why did you decide to leave academics for a business career?
The decision for me was whether to pursue the academic career or to enter some business field. First of all, I wanted to earn some money and, what’s more important, I felt that you have only a limited amount of control in the career path devoted to natural sciences. Such a career depends a lot on external factors, like the opportunities that you receive, as well as the topic you are working on. I wanted to be the master of my own career and that is actually why I switched to the business side.
What exactly was your entry position within Allianz?
I joined a team of 10 people in Germany. We worked on personal computer programs for sales agents. More than twenty years ago a very niche, but very innovative field. The clients – sales agents in Germany –were very demanding. They were already becoming dependent on the software, so they were incredibly persistent and you always got immediate feedback from them.
If you think about your journey through Allianz, how did you get to Allianz Consulting?
I was working for the IT until I was asked by the sales department to join them. This is another big leap; – from theoretical physics to IT and then to sales. In sales we focused on something that would be called today as “organizational management” and “business IT transformations”.
We actually served around forty thousand people in the German sales organization plus about the same number of part-time agents, bank employees and brokers. In the end we did also web-based solutions, data warehousing and campaign management. A very interesting time indeed: we worked directly with agents and were very close to the board member in charge of sales in Germany. We were responsible for a budget of approximately 150 million EUR per year. Later I became the head of the IT department with approximately 400 people at four different locations. We focused on software for agents, banks and brokers, development of allianz.de, allianz.com, intranet and campaign management.
What really makes the difference from my perspective is understanding both sides: on the one hand side – the IT people, on the other hand side – users’ and clients’ demands. If you have some foothold on either side, you must try to develop into the other area. Bridging the gap between both areas of expertise is utterly important. Further down the road I got a proposal to set up a greenfield platform for the automotive business. I agreed and soon left this big corporate department for a startup environment. We started a greenfield operations platform for the global automotive and direct businesses.
So, before getting to Allianz Consulting you got an insight into almost every business area, right?
Yes, exactly. These business areas were – IT, sales and operations. And that’s actually what qualifies me for heading Allianz Consulting.
Did you then immediately start as a head of Allianz Consulting?
Allianz Consulting is set as a partnership and we live this setup on every level. Jürgen Weber – my co-managing partner – has a consulting background as he once worked for McKinsey. He also has serious experience in procurement and played a key role in developing Allianz’ CSR practice – very diverse career paths as you can see.