Project Description

Thomas Steiner

Partner at BearingPoint


He did a banking apprenticeship followed by finance studies in Regensburg (Germany) and a traineeship at DZ Bank AG. In 2004, he joined BearingPoint, a leading global business consultancy. After a four-year stop at the asset management firm MEAG, he returned to BearingPoint and is now partner and co-head of risk management services. Read the full story here. 

  • Can you give us a quick overview of your career so far?

The deciding step in my career was also the very first. After high school I began an apprenticeship at DZ Bank. It’s a big bank but they only take 8 students and offer them special mentoring. I liked banking and decided to study business in Regensburg. Simultaneously I completed a trainee program at DZ Bank in London.

All of this gave me good chances after graduation and I started my career in consulting at Bearing Point. Luckily, my first projects were in a topic that I’m still working on as a partner today. However, my wife and I got our first daughter after a few years and I wanted to stop the typical consultant lifestyle with extensive travelling.

At MEAG, the asset manager of Munich Re, I was able to combine family and professional life in Munich. I quickly got a managerial position and built up a new unit that reported directly to the COO. Since I started from scratch I designed the strategy, the processes and was responsible for staffing. But after one or two more projects there, I got bored to work in a big hierarchy and was eager to go back into consulting.

Back at BearingPoint, I am responsible for their asset liability management and became partner this year with a focus in this field.


  • Let’s go back to your early education. Why did you get interested in finance and started a banking apprenticeship?

Do you want to hear the true story? Here it goes: When I was in school I had long hair, drove a VW bus and was a flower power hippie – to exaggerate a bit. One day, a good friend of mine came and told me she would do an apprenticeship at a bank and I laughed at her. My worldview and the banking world were the complete opposite.

A few weeks later, my school visited the German stock exchange and we had lunch at DZ Bank. Their HR manager came by and told us about the fancy apprenticeship program that they offer. For fun, I told my teacher that they would never accept nor even consider me because of my looks. He said he’d invite me to a five-course dinner if they take me.

I applied, it was a long application process and in the end, they actually did take me. I thought if they look into 2000 applicants and only take eight of them, I would be silly not to do it. Even though my lifestyle and the industry didn’t harmonize, I’ve always been interested in the topic. So I did the apprenticeship and looking back, it was the right thing to do. I got profound insights of the industry and great mentoring.

“The other important thing is flexibility. Take everything in, don’t have any pre-set opinions and arrange yourself flexibly with your working environment.”
  • After graduating and at the same finishing your traineeship at DZ Bank, you started your career in consulting.

Indeed, I went to BearingPoint in Munich and worked in my first project in asset liability management with a manager who was a good mentor to me. He gave me on the one hand a deep dive of the topic and the consultant lifestyle on the other.

It’s very important for your job entry in consulting that you have someone who’s a mentor to you. The other important thing is flexibility. Take everything in, don’t have any pre-set opinions and arrange yourself flexibly with your working environment. Every project is different to the one before. The topics change but also the region. Today you can work in the US, tomorrow in Germany and the week later somewhere else again. If you don’t have that flexibility in your mind, you will have a hard time in this job.


  • Tell us more about the asset liability management and the finance industry?

Asset liability management is effectively the steering of a bank’s liquidity and interest risks. If the interest rates change, a bank can gain or lose a lot of money. Just like yesterday when we were afraid that the FED would sound the bell for a reversal of interest rates. This has immense effects on a bank’s value and risk profile. I help banks to manage the risk. The same applies for liquidity risks: How do you make sure a bank doesn’t crash during a liquidity crisis. These are the two main aspects of asset liability management.

When I started my banking apprenticeship, banking was very hip. It was the era of the new market and you had the first Internet millionaires – at least in the books. But I was very sceptical of that. I thought it couldn’t be possible that you make money out of nothing. That’s why I focussed early on risk management.

Today, after all the crises, from the Internet bubble-burst to Lehman Brothers to the debt crisis, you really see the high economic relevance that banks have. And risk management plays a crucial role there. You’re not talking about profit maximization but about stabilizing banks and in some cases entire economies.

This global aspect I like most about what I do. Nowadays a lot has changed and we have more and more bank regulations and the public is much more aware of their relevance.

“I also like to see my results directly. When you work for a big company, it’s harder to effectively measure your results. As a consultant, you see the immediate effect of it.”
  • After a four-year stop at MEAG you changed back to consulting at BearingPoint. What was the difference?

A) the diversity of topics and B) you never know what the next day will be like. I like to handle several things at once and like to be constantly challenged. Sometimes you have a client meeting and think that you’re never getting a task from him. And all of a sudden you’re trusted with a huge project.

As a result of being a partner now at BearingPoint, my job is a lot more entrepreneurial and diverse than at any possible position at MEAG. I also like to see my results directly. When you work for a big company, it’s harder to effectively measure your results. As a consultant, you see the immediate effect of it.


  • How do you become a partner at BearingPoint?

In short, you’re simply asked by the existing partners.

They ask you if you are successful over a long, long period of time. Consulting is a people’s business – in terms of clients as well as employees. You need high acceptance and reputation among your clients. And also a good acceptance among your employees who realise the projects.

If you have both, and in addition the luck to stand for topics that are highly requested on the consulting market and you develop these topics and the business innovatively – then you have a chance of becoming a partner.


  • What is your personal background and don’t you want to leave Bavaria one day?

I come from the area between Augsburg and Ulm. You know, my wife is a teacher and as a teacher in Germany, you’re not allowed to leave the state you started in. Otherwise you lose the status as a civil servant and all the benefits that come with it. And since we didn’t want that, we decided to settle in the most beautiful city, possibly the most beautiful of the world.

  • Thanks for sharing your story.