Born into a prominent political family in the Ivory Coast, he holds dual Ivorian and French citizenship. He studied advanced mathematics and physics in France before joining the management consultants McKinsey & Company in 1986, where he worked until 1994. From 1994 to 1999 he worked in the Ivory Coast first as chief executive of the National Bureau for Technical Studies (BNETD). Following the 1999 Ivorian coup d’état, he resumed a private-sector career and rejoined McKinsey in Paris from 2000 to 2002, then worked as a senior executive for Aviva before being recruited by Prudential.
In 2020, Thiam was appointed by the shareholders of the Kering Foundation to become part of the board of directors, as well as to take the position of Chair of the Audit Committee.