says Flavio Palaci, partner at PwC. You can read more about his current job and studies in the interview.
Flavio Palaci is the regional managing partner for Data Analytics. He is responsible for the overall practice covering the innovation center and all cross functional value propositions for PwC. In addition, Flavio is the regional Forensic Technology Solutions and Financial Crime Advisory Leader. Similarly, he is responsible for the financial crime advisory programs and implementation programs. He graduated from UNE with a bachelor of Business degree in Applied Finance and recently completed a Global Executive MBA.
Where did you attend university?
I skipped around three universities in Australia, seeking to find the right institution. These were University of Western Sydney, Macquarie University and the University of New England (UNE). I studied similar disciplines at all three universities either in actuarial studies or applied finance. I graduated from UNE with a bachelor of Business degree in Applied Finance. Only recently, I decided to continue my tertiary development, and completed a Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) with IESE Business School.
Is there any difference between universities in Australia and Spain?
The level of education could be described as comparable; however, the cultural aspects are worlds apart. Students seem to be very competitive from both countries and the professional staff is also incredibly well prepared and knowledgeable, with deep and practical insights.
And now the practical part, how different is theoretical studying from practice? What can you apply in business?
Academic professionals don’t always stay close to developments in business and therefore, while their knowledge is very interesting, it may not always be practical or up to date with industry. On the other hand, my GEMBA was one of the most gratifying experiences I have gone through.
Would you recommend that someone undertake an MBA?
This would be like recommending that everyone takes up violin lessons. An MBA is not for everyone, and if done at a globally recognized intuition, you can say goodbye to a good part of 20 months of your life. You need to have a clear mission behind undertaking an MBA. Whether it be to start your own business, progress up the corporate ladder, drive innovation forward or to become the aspiring leader you have always wanted to be, having a mission is crucial to doing an MBA, otherwise there are better ways to invest more than 150 000 USD.
What is it that you do at PwC?
I lead two regional service lines: the first is our Big Data Analytics and Innovation practice across CEE. Additionally, I lead our regional Forensic Technology Solutions and Financial Crime Advisory Practice. We have the advantage of coming from a deep analytics background coupled with senior industry financial crime professionals to deliver exceptional value to our clients, simply by finding new ways to prevent, detect or identify financial crime threats and risks.
How would you define Big Data and Innovation?
The term Big Data has exploded in the past 3 years, and it means different things to different people, but one aspect is unanimously agreed upon - companies that understand the value of their data. Innovation and Big Data will be pivotal to any organization wanting to lead; you don’t have to look far at companies like Amazon, Google, Uber, Paypal, etc. These are companies that made strategic choices around Big Data and Innovation, in fact it’s part of their DNA and why competing against these firms is difficult. Our purpose is to create new or inspirational ways for companies to make money or reduce their risks and save costs.
What about Forensic Technology and Financial Crime advisory? It sounds very interesting. What is the Purpose?
The other side of my playing field is to help companies who are struggling with other operational issues such as fraud, abuse, theft or comply with regulatory requirements such as anti-money laundering, bribery and corruption and economic sanctions. This is an immensely interesting space, and companies across the globe are struggling with this: fines are mounting for non-compliance and some institutions have collapsed. Our practice helps in three ways: firstly, we help create the ‘fence around the property’, meaning defining how an institution should prevent these risks from occurring, either from a program perspective by defining the policy, procedures and target operating model for institutions. Secondly, we help develop the ‘gate or front door’ which is around the identification and detection of risks. This could be to select, implement and calibrate financial crime solutions. Big Data Analytics and Innovation plays a big role and many firms do not have the right capabilities to do this correctly. Finally, we provide the means to respond in the event that a compliance breach or an operational loss takes place. This could be to support in a remediation or to investigate what happened, what went wrong and to develop a better prepared institution after we finish.
What type of resources do you have in your practice?
We have incredibly talented data scientists from a wide range of backgrounds (over 40% are PhD’s in mathematics, physics or economics) across many industries. We have strong visualization consultants, programmers and data consultants. We also have design thinking experts who shape the way we approach innovation, both internally and when we consult with clients. Finally, we have rounded out the practice by attracting deep industry experts who provide the business context to our Big Data minds.
For you, who is the ideal candidate for either of your practices?
Having a bright mind gets you through the PwC doorway, but I am looking to build the best culture and work environment in the Czech Republic when it comes to professional services firms. Therefore, finding people from different cultures or backgrounds is very important; people with a high level of EQ and not just IQ is high on my list. When I interview people, one of the questions I ask is to describe the most innovative solution to a common business problem they have developed. The winners do not necessarily have the most elaborate solutions (although interesting to listen to) but are those who solve common problems in a simple yet innovative way. Why? Because the solution needs to fit the target market to increase the chance that it is adopted.
What about your team? Is the composition of the team the same for every case or is it different on a case-by-case basis?
Regionally, in the Big Data Analytics practice, we have around 35 practitioners, which is set to double by the end of the year. We have a highly motivated and focused team. With respect to the regional Forensic Technology and Financial Crime Practice, we are hovering at around 150+ with very aggressive growth plans in this space as well.
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