Delphine Dard-Pourrat, pictured, is the founder of Kensho Advisory
Photo: LaLa La Photo
The 2008 financial crisis prompted journalist Delphine Dard-Pourrat to quit her job in journalism and go back to university to better understand the causes of the financial collapse. She tells Delano about her starting over journey.
Jess Bauldry: Tell us a bit about yourself
Delphine Dard-Pourrat: I was born in France in the beautiful wine region of Burgundy. After graduating from Sciences Po Lyon, I followed my husband who started his career in the banking sector in Luxembourg. I have been living in the grand duchy for almost 11 years now.
What was your career path previously?
I started my career as a freelance political and economist journalist in Paris, working for various national publications. At that time, I used to spend my time between Paris and Luxembourg where my husband settled for his work. The TGV was not yet in place and commuting every weekend soon became burdensome so it was more than time to consider relocating to Luxembourg.
After working a few months also as a freelance financial reporter for several publications, “Le Quotidien” hired me for leading and reshaping its financial and economic section pages in the beginning of 2007.
What was the turning point that made you want to change careers?
The 2008 financial crisis and its life-changing and unpredictable consequences were, for sure, the turning point for me.
As the head editor of the financial pages, I was at the forefront of the economic news. Bank collapses occurred every day in Luxembourg and in the rest of the world and the chaos was increasing. It was a crazy time. Financial news was constantly being updated and no-one seemed to understand how this could possibly happen.
As a business reporter following politicians, decision-makers and executives in Luxembourg and around the world, I have also been a privileged eyewitness of their successes but also failures despite making their best to face the major crisis.
In my position, I tried to investigate and find insights to make the crisis easier to digest for my readers. This is how I met Yves Nosbusch, the chief economist of BGL BNP Paribas, who gave a very inspiring talk at the time about behavioural economics and how it could possibly explain some roots of the crisis.
In fact, one of the most important lessons from the crisis is that we tried to apply rational economic models to non-rational human decision-making process.
Contrary to classical economics, behavioural economics does not believe we are rational “homo economicus” and takes into account the fallacies of human judgment for improving prediction in economic models or increasing the efficiency of decision-making process in business. Discovering behavioural science and its potential explanatory power has been very revealing and fascinating for me.
I then looked for the right education in this field and had the chance to be selected to enrol into the prestigious [master of science] in behavioural science at the London School of Economics. My ultimate goal was to move from a position of eyewitness to a status of active actor of positive economic change.
What, if any, were the obstacles you faced in making the change?
I am an optimist and committed person. When I take a decision, I strive for achieving my goal. In this perspective, I prefer seeing obstacles as challenges I must take up. I am also a dedicated road cyclist, riding long distance races and this taught me a lot about patience and hard work. In this place, the hills are tough and the rain is heavy but maybe in a few kilometres, the sun will finally shine and the road will be flat again. This applies to sports but also to life. Of course, organising demanding studies, travelling to London, working while back home in Luxembourg and having a private life is quite a challenge.
Tell us about your startup
I launched my startup, Kensho Advisory, a few months ago and again this is quite intensive. You have to do everything: the administrative stuff, networking, building your website, making in-depth scientific research and writing some clients proposals. But, learning how to properly juggle between everything, constantly review your priorities, being rigorous and flexible at the same time are precious skills. The British people love to say that there is no bad weather for cycling only poor clothing. I apply this into my working life: I believe there is no bad situation in business just poor mind-sets.
What helped you make the changed?
Starting over is kind of leaping into the unknown. In this situation, feeling you are not alone is a real asset. I have a very supportive husband and friends in business who kindly encouraged me at each step. As for resuming my studies, I have a friend who offered me the possibility to get a part-time job for paying my LSE student fees and expenses in London.
In London, I met highly skilled professionals in my MSc cohort. Consequently, I did not have to start my business alone. With some of them we decided to set up a network of behavioural economists in order to work together on international projects. Our cultural and professional background is our strength and we are connected at all times to help each other grow.
How has your new career evolved since making the change?
Behavioural science and economics offer an impressive toolbox for better understanding human behaviour. In public policy, big data, fintech, human resources, there is room for the implementation of cost-effective behavioural solutions. Behavioural science is only just starting to make its way to Luxembourg, so I feel like a first mover. My job consists both of evangelising about the assets of my discipline and at the same time I have the chance to work already on very inspiring projects with start-ups and fintech firms well aware of how behavioural science will help them to make a difference on the market. I will soon have the opportunity of giving a public speech about the use of behavioural science for new tech and new opportunities do not stop to come.
I also work on a collaborative intelligence basis with my partners on the behaviour.ai network. Thanks to our diversity and skills, we have already succeeded in attracting governments, insurers, banks and big consulting firms as clients. After London and Copenhagen, I will soon travel to Asia to assist my friends on some specific projects. But my home base remains Luxembourg and all these experiences contribute to enrich my international and behavioural business proposal for new customers in the grand duchy.
What would be your advice to anyone considering a career change?
You can easily lose yourself today spending hours on social networks where you will find plenty of articles praising the benefits of a career change and how uplifting this could be. But rarely will you find stories telling frankly how hard it could be and listing all the challenges you will have to face.
My advice: nothing compares to real world experience. Find nascent entrepreneurs, the ones who succeed and the ones who fail, business angels; friends in business and try to mitigate the opinions you get and ask for feedback about your abilities for doing it. Do not be afraid to take time and be realistic.
As a behavioural economist, I would suggest to the ones who aim at becoming entrepreneurs to do a pre-mortem. This typical behavioural managerial exercise consists of imagining your failure before it happens and listing all the obstacles you may face to see how to address them and, more importantly, if you are ready to face them. You will not be able to predict all your mistakes but at least you are more prepared and it is better to do a pre-mortem than a post-mortem.
Finally, be enthusiastic, starting over is a rewarding journey!
Delphine Dard-Pourrat is the founder of Kensho Advisory, a Luxembourg-based company providing services relying on applied behavioural science. Kensho Advisory is a founding member of behaviour.ai the first worldwide network (including London, Dubai, New Delhi, Sydney, Luxembourg) dedicated to helping corporates and public institutions to better understand human behaviours at play in their business.