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Daniel Thomas, an alumnus of the WU Executive Academy, embarked on a transformative journey from the banking sector to the field of mobility. Thomas’ story exemplifies that adaptability, fresh perspectives, and renewed motivation can be attained through transitioning between industries. For him, the key to success lies in fostering curiosity, engaging in open dialogue, and recognizing the abundant possibilities that await those who dare to venture into new professional realms.
Data from the world’s largest economy, the US, shows that individuals are expected to have approximately 12 jobs on average throughout their lifetime. In the past year, 32% of individuals between the ages of 25 and 44 have contemplated making a career change, while 29% have actually switched to a completely different field since their first job after college (according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics).
By embracing industry change, both companies and employees reap the rewards: Companies not only survive but thrive as they anticipate and meet the ever-changing needs of their customers, meanwhile, employees gain adaptability, fresh perspectives, and a revitalized sense of motivation through industry transitions. It’s a transformative journey that enhances the flexibility and marketability of both individuals and organizations, empowering them to venture into new territories with passion and finesse.
That being said, changing industries is certainly not an easy feat, especially for executives who have dedicated a significant portion of their lives to one field. Daniel Thomas, an accomplished WU Executive Academy alumnus, serves as a shining example and role model for those considering an industry change. With over 20 years of experience in banking (within UniCredit), he successfully transitioned to the mobility sector and now holds the position of Executive Manager for Strategic Business Management at Allane Mobility Consulting GmbH.
Thomas, a self-proclaimed hands-on practitioner, started his career with a bank apprenticeship at HypoVereinsbank - UniCredit Bank AG in Germany after completing his Abitur at Europaschule Bornheim. He began as a retail bank employee, selling banking products and later providing advice on security and credit business matters. During this time, Thomas pursued on-the-job studies in avant-garde business informatics, which helped him transition into the corporate banking industry. In 2004, he concluded his business informatics studies and became the Deputy Head of Branch at HypoVereinsbank. His journey eventually led him to the mobility sector in 2022, following his role as the Head of International Desk. Drawing upon his theoretical knowledge and experience in retail banking, Thomas leveraged his skills to excel as a Relationship Manager in corporate banking. His areas of expertise encompassed treasury services, interest rate and foreign currency management, and most notably, corporate structured finance. Reflecting on his drive for continuous growth, he remarks, „Over the years, I have come to realize that my motivation for ongoing personal, educational, and professional development is one of my greatest strengths. It instills in me a sense of self-confidence and inner peace, enabling me to navigate through diverse situations.“ Actively seeking educational opportunities provided by various organizations, including his employer, he actively expanded his personal profile through credit risk, strategic finance management, and corporate finance programs.
After spending time in the Rhineland region, Thomas joined UniCredit‘s global corporate and investment banking division as a Director in Global Client Management in Munich. He led a major project in Central and Eastern Europe, traveling extensively and gaining valuable professional and personal growth opportunities. Thomas emphasized the significance of language and local customs in fostering meaningful dialogue with individuals from diverse backgrounds. Afterward, he relocated to Vienna and assumed the position of Country Manager for the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Hungary, further expanding his expertise in corporate and investment banking within the region.
While expanding his professional expertise through various positions at UniCredit, Thomas recognized the chance to deepen his theoretical knowledge by enrolling in the Global Executive MBA program at WU Executive Academy. With outstanding achievement, he had the privilege of being part of the final cohort in 2018-2019 that benefited from on-site lectures and travel activities. This included valuable time spent at the University of Minnesota, USA, where he pursued a joint degree.
Soon, another move was on sight for the Executive Academy alumni, this time a move of nature, largely unpredictable by most and one that made a large impact for Thomas: „I decided to do my Global Executive MBA at the WU Executive Academy just before Corona kicked in.” he remembers, „In 2020 I was called back by my employer UniCredit to Germany. Together with my wife I decided that the family is going to stay in Vienna and I will be commuting. ” That was a challenge for Thomas, given the circumstances with all the rules and regulations which one had all of a sudden, plus the tiring and time consuming aspects of traveling back and forth. But, being the optimist he is, Thomas has no regrets: „Looking back now, I can only say that I‘m very happy we all made it safe and sound.” he says.
Over the years, I learned that my motivation for continued personal, educational, and professional growth was one of my strengths as it gives me a lot of self-confidence and inner peace.
He remembers his time at the Executive Academy not only fondly but also proudly. „It was truly enriching to catch up with the latest research and academic content, and it proved to be incredibly useful.” he says. Additionally, the program helped Thomas understand how individuals in different companies work and interact with each other. „It provided me with an outside-in view of how others perceive me, which was really beneficial.” he remembers, „I gained an additional sense of self-confidence and self-awareness through this experience.”
This, in turn, positioned him where he is today, as it contributed to his analytical skills, kept him up to date with current research, and prepared him for general management purposes, allowing him to have a broader perspective beyond the banking industry.
The year was then 2022, when Corona was slowly nearing its possible end. However, for Thomas, something fundamental changed, personally, so he decided, what many high level executives of today might consider a bold move: He decided to leave UniCredit, the company he has been working for more than 20 years and continued with Allane Mobility Consulting. Thus, he not only changed companies, but also sectors.
Based on data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average age at which individuals change careers is 39 years old. Interestingly, workers aged 65 and above tend to have an average job tenure of 10.3 years, which is half the time that Thomas spent working at UniCredit. It is worth noting that a significant portion of American employees, around 52%, are contemplating a career change in the coming year, while 44% have already made plans to transition. In order to remain competitive and meet the evolving needs of customers, companies are increasingly open to embracing leaders who have experience in multiple industries. Executives who embark on a career switch often gain valuable adaptability and can provide additional value by bringing a broader perspective to their new roles.
It is by leveraging transferable skills, an employee can more or less smoothly transition between sectors, avoiding specialization in stagnant industries and exploring new and dynamic fields. This change brings fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and a renewed sense of motivation, aligning career aspirations with personal values.
„For sure, it‘s always difficult to explain that a banker is all of a sudden a good mobility manager, right?” asks Thomas „Once I grasped the ways in which I could make a valuable contribution, I could effectively communicate the capabilities and experience I bring to the table, which would ultimately lead to the success of the project and company I work in.” he adds. His openness and curiosity have played a vital role in his successful transition to the realm of mobility. The passion for this field had ignited within Thomas long ago. “I have always been a staunch advocate of mobility, although my enthusiasm doesn‘t necessarily revolve around cars,“ he explains. With a wide smile, he adds, „Nevertheless, I do possess a driver‘s license, so there‘s no need to worry about that.“
Thomas recognizes that the landscape of mobility is on the verge of immense transformation in the coming years. He believes that advancements in technology, coupled with changing societal attitudes and environmental concerns, will reshape the way people move and commute. As he embraces this evolving landscape, Thomas remains committed to staying ahead of the curve, constantly exploring new opportunities and innovative solutions in the dynamic field of mobility.
His transition was partially motivated by conversations about the future and sustainability with his daughter. At the same time, Thomas’ son is increasingly interested and curious how the world will evolve considering new ways of inclusive mobility.
In his current position as executive manager at Allane Mobility Consulting, Thomas plays a crucial role in supporting the management board with strategic business management. His main focus lies in overseeing the company‘s transformation process and concurrently managing the sales activities. With this in mind, Thomas focused in the first months of his activities to implement a strategic sales process, the subsequent monitoring and started working on the implementation of a dedicated IT tool to keep track on client related activities.
„We actively engage in discussions with corporations to assist them in transforming their mobility practices, which are typically car-centric, into a comprehensive and holistic corporate mobility system,“ Thomas explains. He further elaborates, „This involves integrating diverse modes of transportation, such as public transit and cycling, while effectively managing the company‘s car fleet and mobility budgets, among other essential aspects.“
By working closely with clients, Thomas helps them reimagine their approach to mobility, aligning it with the changing needs of the modern world. His expertise in developing innovative solutions and integrating sustainable transportation options enables companies to optimize their mobility strategies, reduce environmental impact, and enhance overall efficiency.
As we conclude our interview, Thomas offers a valuable piece of advice to those contemplating a career change: „Maintaining a sense of curiosity and actively participating in open dialogues, transparently exchanging ideas about one‘s potential contributions and realistic limitations in a given role, is key.“
Fotos: Gianmaria Gava