Our Inspired Speaker Series in collaboration with the Inspired Leaders Network continued at Hult London Postgraduate this month. First to join us on campus was Phillipe Maso.

Lessons From CEO at AXA

Having played a key role in building the AXA Group for some 15 years, culminating with two years as CEO of AXA Insurance UK, Phillipe’s adaptability, flexibility, and skill at simplifying complex situations has helped forged a compelling leadership philosophy and growing international reputation.

When asked about how he arrived at AXA, Philppe said, “As always, these things don’t happen because they are planned; they happen because you meet opportunities.”

This struck a cord with Jürgen Vleminckx, Bachelor of Business Administration student at Hult London undergraduate campus and President of the Hult Society of Banking, who said, “My takeaway was to keep an open mind, Philippe told us that in a corporate career your path is not necessarily chosen, but that you can influence the start and end point.”

During his talk, Phillipe advocated change, not just in organizations, but in personal careers, “your business life is a very long thing[…]you need to make sure that you introduce change in your career.”

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Agent of change

Philippe himself has introduced considerable change over the course of his career and ultimately made the transition from CFO to CEO. During the first two decades of his career, he was responsible for finance, strategy, financial risk, and asset management. Philippe now blurs the lines between financial spokesman, leadership expert, and authority on change management.

Sumit Kumar, a Master’s in International Marketing student found that Phillipe’s breadth of experience produced some very useful advice. Sumit said, “He explained about the different strategies he used in every company he worked for, and that these will differ depending on culture. It has really boosted my morale; he gave us all some really good tips. I was surprised to hear that a CFO had turned CEO – whatever next!”

Phillipe spent two years in Paris leading the transformation of Aviva-France to a very challenging timescale in the darkest recessionary times. He is now taking the lead position in helping McKinsey and Co., the largest consultancy firm in the world, establish a global insurance practice.

New talent, new thinking

On what keeps him motivated and innovating, Phillipe said, “You need to fuel your engine with new ideas, new thinking…The great thing about McKinsey is I meet a lot of young people. Very bright, probably much brighter than I am, very efficient young people. So this is something that fuels you. A lot.”

He also had surprising insights into the culture of McKinsey, “They are interested in being contradicted; different views and opinions. Which is not something people believe about large consulting firms.”

He went on to debunk more myths around consulting firms saying, “You could imagine that a company like McKinsey is strictly focused on the top line and profitability[…]It’s absolutely not[… ]It’s all about creating an extremely well-performing, well-knowledged, well-connected network worldwide.”

Master of adaptation

The next Inspired Speaker to join us at Hult London was Phil Walker, Chief Operating Officer the blue chip global consulting business, Capgemini. Phil has adapted and evolved his own career to meet the changing nature of work in recent years. He started life as an educationalist, moving seamlessly from being a Partner at PA Consulting to becoming a partner at IBM’s consultancy practice, and culminating in the Chief Operating Officer role at France-based consultancy Capgemini.

Students listened to Phil talk about the changing nature of work and his insights into why consulting will be even more important in the future. They also heard that it’s not all plain sailing for the big consulting companies, and they also will need to adapt and evolve.

A student perspective

Selam Ibrahim, one of our Master’s in International Business students at the London campus said, “It was a great insight into consultancy. It was useful to see how careers and expertise overlaps within companies as I’m trying to find my niche.” Another MIB student, Pam Dinh, said of the event, “I found Phil easy to relate to, great to hear about his challenges and successes – great networking after the talk which is useful for more informal conversations.”


*Video highlights from the event

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