Will Moore’s smiling face beams in through an open video conference window. Early morning in Europe, it’s 4:30pm in Hong Kong, and his excitement at being overseas evident.
Hailing from the UK, he’s the first ever graduate to have won AXA’s Great Global Adventure: a trip around the world featuring two internships at AXA offices in different cities, travel to exotic locations, volunteering opportunities and more. A resounding success, the Great Global Adventure is now in its second edition (see sidebar).
Part of AXA’s ongoing efforts to hire and attract exceptional young talent in a more and more connected world, the Great Global Adventure has taken Will from London to Hong Kong, across the Siberian plains, up the Great Wall of China, through to Mongolia, Beijing and beyond.
I managed to speak with Will just days before he was to celebrate the Chinese New Year, to learn a bit more about his unique experience as the first ever Great Global Adventurer.
How did you feel as you were just about to board your flight out of London, at the beginning of the trip?
“It was so exciting. Having gone through the competition… with rounds of interviews and presentations and down to the final four, and then finally when I won, it was a wonderful realization. But, I think it was actually when I was on the plane, when it suddenly hit me: I’m off. There’s a 14 hour flight ahead of me, an 8-hour time difference compared to the UK, and I was thinking how my 6-foot-three frame will fit in the seat for 14 hours. But it was a good feeling… very excited about the future.”
Where did you go first?
“I flew out of London, had a few days in Hong Kong, and then set off to China for 16 days. I walked over the border from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, and then took the train to Yangshuo, saw pandas in Chengdu, cycled along the walls of the old city in Xi’An and saw the terracotta warriors, bamboo-rafted in Yangshuo across the Li River, surrounded by luscious green mountains…”
How has the experience been so far, compared to your expectations that first day?
“When I won, that was almost disbelief. It was one of those moments where you have to pinch yourself. In fact, I think I did actually pinch myself. And then having turned around and seen my whole family there as well, I just couldn’t believe it, it was remarkable. The travel’s been wonderful, to be able to tick off my travel bucket list: places like Lake Baikal, the world’s largest and deepest freshwater lake, to be able to drink water from it… awesome, absolutely awe-inspiring. And to see the sun set over The Great Wall of China, that was breath-taking. To have tea with a local nomad in Mongolia. These experiences have been so different, and so unique, I’ll remember them for the rest of my life.”
Super trip or Superman?
Already impressed by the many different things he’s done not even halfway through his trip, I jokingly ask Will if he’s planning to play Superman in an upcoming blockbuster. He laughs and doesn’t even skip a beat as he tells me he’s been filming, or vlogging (video blogging), his entire experience on AXA’s YouTube page and Discover AXA, in addition to completing his internship. Yes, definitely Superman.
Anything you’d like to share about your time with your colleagues in Hong Kong?
“The internship in Hong Kong was brilliant. From the first day at the office, there was a really warm and open atmosphere. Everyone welcomed me, introduced me to other graduates and the Executive Committee members as well. It was great to have that opportunity, they really encourage an inquisitive mind… They said: let’s try and do different rotations in different teams so I could learn the most about investment management. Because that’s the whole thing about an internship, trying to see where the right fit for you is. And I’ve come away with great contacts, with global colleagues, but also with friends.”
How did you feel getting ready for your presentation at Tsinghua University in Beijing?
Well, I was very excited, especially because Mark Zuckerberg had been there two weeks before. He gave his whole presentation in Mandarin, so it was quite daunting. I managed to say a bit of Mandarin when I introduced myself with “Hello” and “Thank you for listening”. Maybe that’s a future goal, to be able to give the whole presentation in Mandarin… I’m a firm believer in prior preparation and planning… I’m liaising with the team in Paris and London, who are working on the Great Global Adventure, and they shared some visuals, so I had really good slides to give out.
Life @ AXA.
As part of the Great Global Adventure, Will gets to complete two internships at two different AXA sites (in this case, Hong Kong and San Francisco), and do some volunteering as well. He shares his experiences and impressions about being part of the AXA family.
Impressions about AXA as an organization?
“I read a really interesting article in The Financial Times, an interview with Henri De Castries, the CEO of AXA. And he was saying how we need to embrace disruptive technologies and how we can get left behind if we don’t; and we need to see them as an opportunity and not as a threat. I think that’s 100% true, because there’s a lot of opportunity in the future, whether it’s with driverless cars, or blockchain, Bitcoin… it could be the Internet of Things or big data.
My second internship is going to be with AXA Lab in San Francisco, and I’m really looking forward to that, to see these disruptive technologies entering the marketplace, entering the world really, that affect everyone, not just from an insurance perspective.”
Besides the Great Global Adventure, what do you find unique, in terms of what the organization offers recent graduates?
“Well I think the fact that it’s the first big corporation to put in place a prize like the Great Global Adventure… they embrace the diversity of youth, and understand that all generations can contribute towards the business, and to a global company?.
I think AXA recognizes that young people are at the forefront of developing forms of communication and digital technologies as well. When I was speaking to Executive Committee members - I was actually privileged to talk to Bruno Guilloton, CEO of AXA Investment Managers for Asia, and Andrea Rossi, who was visiting the office at the time, the global CEO of AXA Investment Managers - their career trajectory was very similar: they’d all started off within AXA Group, within different positions, in different geographies and then moved around the world to different teams throughout their career. I’d like to follow the same trajectory as well.”
How has volunteering been?
“It’s been really good. I love volunteering, especially with young people, because they have so much creativity and they’re so engaged as well. I was in Jakarta for a short time, but I managed to work with several different schools and the enthusiasm of the kids was incredible, I just couldn’t stop smiling. I was really thankful for that opportunity to give back to the community as well, to see the creativity of the kids, and also to see how committed and invested the Prestasi Junior Indonesia teachers were to the future of the children. All the hard work they were putting in was inspiring.”
The professional traveler.
What sort of challenges are you up against on a daily basis?
“I work almost every day with the team based in Paris and in the UK, so it’s definitely a time difference challenge. Living out of a 45-litre backpack for 7 months, that can be a challenge too, with one pair of shoes and a pair of flip flops. That’s something new, actually having a minimalistic approach… it was really liberating because you realize what you don’t need and what you can survive on.”
What else is in your backpack?
“Duct tape can be a lifesaver.”
What’s the single most fun experience you’ve had since you started the whole trip?
“Oooh, difficult question. I think there have been so many amazing, unique and fun experiences: hiking The Great Wall of China, talking to a Mongolian nomad in a Ger camp in -35 degrees in Ulaanbaatar, being pulled by eight Huskies through the Siberian snowy tundra, I think all of them have been so unique it’s really difficult to say… they’ve all appealed to a different side of my adventurous spirit. But I’d say if I had to choose one that was the most fun: either snowmobiling, which was really fun and very fast, or the Husky sledding, because that was incredible.”
One thing you would change about the GGA experience, if any.
“Maybe the number of inoculations I had to get. (laughs)”
How has the trip changed your expectations and hopes for your career prospects and future?
“It’s definitely enhanced my employability: having two very different internships with AXA, one in investment management and one in technology, which seem different but, the more I read about them, and the more I read about AXA, they really complement each other. There’s a great synergy between the two. And I definitely want to live abroad, and keep moving to different countries, experience new languages and understand new cultures.
AXA Great Global Adventure
The AXA Great Global Adventure is an online game open to students and graduates worldwide. Featuring a series of fun and engaging challenges, it ends with one lucky winner offered a customized work/travel/community experience, for up to 12 months, that includes:
• Two paid work experience placements of up to 6 weeks at two different AXA locations worldwide
• A community experience with one of AXA’s CR partners
• Up to 8 months of global travel
• Travel and living expenses funded
The second edition is open right now at www.greatglobaladventure.com. Check it out!