Alice Nušlová (November 2017)

Alice Nušlová comes from Prague and graduated from the IES in 2014. During that time, she spent a study stay as part of the Erasmus program in France at Université de Strasbourg or thanks to the inter-faculty agreements a study exchange in Israel at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. Already during her student years 2013 - 2014, Alice started to work as an assistant of Senator Jiří Bis, as the support of the International Club at Charles University or as an Operations Manager at the Prague Pension called Alice Apartment House, which she operates part-time to this day. After completing her Bachelor's degree program at the IES, she went to Switzerland to continue her studies at the University of St. Gallen. She graduated here in 2017 from Strategy and International Management. In 2015, she started to work at Zurich Insurance Group, first as a Group Strategy Trainee, later as a Liaison Manager & Technology Analyst, where she focused, for example, on developing business relationships in Silicon Valley. Since the fall of 2016, he has been working for Swiss Re Group as an Assistant Vice President, Group Strategy. In her spare time, Alice likes to travel. She has visited more than 50 countries, including Paraguay, Indonesia or South Africa. She is keen on paragliding, horse riding, alpine tourism, particularly ferraty climbing, and practicing yoga.


Alice, you have been studying in the Czech Republic, Israel, France, Switzerland, and passed a summer school in the UK. In which country did you enjoy your studies the most and why?

Israel was very special studywise and culturally. When I arrived, most students were all over the place with startups and entrepreneurship, my college (IDC Herzliya) even had a course on idea commercialization and approaching venture capital funds. This was a whole new way of thinking compared to home, where at that time the word startup was more associated with exotic activities in Silicon Valley and the dotcom bubble. It was unthinkable that a university would support a student with bringing an idea to market.
And then there was the cultural aspect. The IDC was a former military base, security checks at the entrance constituted a standard procedure and my Israeli classmates were proud to serve in the army and ready to defend their country. At first this came as a shock, but when events unleashed towards the end of 2012 with another Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and one could literally see rockets flying on the shore far south, things started falling into context. All in all, I don’t know if enjoy is the right word, but this semester definitely had an impact on how I saw the world.

You have been working in the insurance sector for a long time. What was the stimulus of your decision to do particularly this career? Do you need any special skills for this kind of job?

Joining the insurance industry was a mere coincidence. University of St. Gallen, where I pursued my Master studies, held its annual case competition that I happened to win together with my case partner. At that time, Zurich Insurance was one of the sponsors and they offered me an interview, which I accepted. I did not expect I would stay past my first internship, but here I am more than two years in the industry, first with Zurich Ins. and now at Swiss Re. In Group Strategy one does not need any special expertise, only consulting skills and the ability to learn fast ‘on the fly’. I am part of the Tech Transformation Team, focus of which is on uncovering tech trends in the industry and making sure they get translated either into enhancements in operational efficiency or new/improved products and services. When working with startups we have a special team tasked with technical due diligence, therefore I do not need to be an engineering expert.

Alice, in your work you focus on new trends, e.g. you are in touch with leading hi-tech companies from Silicon Valley. How do you perceive the impact of new technologies on the insurance sector, do you experience changes?

Technology impacts the insurance industry across the full value chain, but the opportunity has by far not been exploited. Most Western insurers have managed to automate simpler tasks, move distribution online and start taking advantage of new, non-traditional data sources such as social media. Yet there is still a long way to go. How can we predict what insurance product a customer will need and when? How can we correctly assess and price cyber risk? When will image recognition be robust enough to do straight-through claims processing? Some of these opportunities could be seized already today, for others the technology is not advanced enough or regulation stands in the way. I have recently come back from China, there it is a whole different story, insurers can go as far as using genetic results to price life policies. It is insurance nirvana.

You live in Zurich, how would you assess your life in Switzerland? How is it to live in a country that is proclaimed with its precision, honesty and high standard of living?

I love outdoors, and for that Switzerland is the right place to be. I also appreciate the quality of food, the punctuality and the order that this country has managed to instill such that rules apply to everyone. Some of it may sound too restrictive; for instance one cannot do laundry on Sunday or own a dog unless all house residents approve it. But the outcome is that people are considerate and so I feel the rules are to everyone’s benefit.
On the downside, I still have the tendency to think in Czech crowns, especially when it comes to services. Back in Prague I would go to a restaurant or for culture. In Zurich even with a salary that sounds insanely high in Czech terms I hesitate if I should spend those 120 chf for an opera or not. Meaning, for me Switzerland is about high living standard in some areas while cutting back in others.

Can you imagine moving back to Prague?

When I first moved to Zurich, a colleague of mine referred to the city as a ‘golden cage’ which nobody wants to leave due to the comfort, financial security, tranquility and living quality it provides. While this is true, I am open to move to another position elsewhere should it offer steeper learning curve and greater responsibility. There are a few such opportunities in Prague: on the one hand I can get involved in a family business, on the other I can start a venture on my own. This is quite compelling. And then there is a personal factor: me and my boyfriend have been apart for more than two years between Zurich and Prague, and although I recently made an arrangement to be in Prague more often, it is only a temporary solution. So yes, I can absolutely imagine going back to Prague - but not just yet.

What do you do to relax from your job responsibilities? Do you have a dream that you would like to come true?

I have recently found true passion in paragliding, which is a sport that requires full attention and does not allow one to think of work. As a pilot you need to stay connected with the nature, listen to the weather, master maneuvers and importantly find your way to the landing and make it a safe one. It feels like total rewiring of the brain compared to activities of a daily life.
In the past I wanted to become a CEO of a multinational, now I look much more at whether the content is fulfilling. I do have a dream, but I will not tell you because I do not want to jinx it. If in a couple of decades down the road it comes true, let’s repeat this interview.






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