An interview with Alan Griffin, chairman and chief executive officer of JLT Re.

Choose four adjectives to describe yourself.Pragmatic, sincere, impatient and open-minded.

If you likened yourself to a historical figure who would it be and why? After a lot of thought I came up with Christopher Columbus. And that was based on courage, forward-thinking and making decisions on the basis of the information he had, even when those decisions were contrary to current belief.

Who in this industry do you most admire and why?I'll probably make him blush but it's Ron Iles, the ex-chairman of Alexander Howden Reinsurance Brokers. I worked for him for 20 years and I've never met anybody that had such integrity in absolutely everything that he did. He's the sort of guy who would walk into the market with a risk and it would be automatically written by the underwriters. He's still a consultant to Aon and he'll be completing 50 years of service next year.

Outside of this industry what issue are you most passionate about?I do tend to get drawn into the global warming debate. What makes me passionate is the doubters – people who say it's not happening – because you've only got to look at the news to see the ice caps melting.

What qualities do you most admire in other people?People who are willing to listen to both sides of the debate and not be totally single-minded, people who act with the utmost integrity and people who get things done.

What qualities do you most dislike in other people?Those who are driven by ego, and a pet hate of mine is people who steal other people's ideas and take credit for them.

What do you know now that you wish you'd known when you started in this industry?First, the importance of totally understanding the client in terms of his corporate and financial objectives. I think they respect me for the fact that I'm here to sell reinsurance but the key to that is properly understanding the client. The second thing that I wish I knew 35 years ago is the true cost of legacy, because I worked in that arena and had to pick up the threads.

What was the last thing that completely surprised you?Manchester United paying £18m for Michael Carrick – being a Tottenham Hotspurs fan I'm quite happy to take the cheque!

How do you unwind at the end of the day?There's a simple answer to that – I don't! It's not good but it's true. I do all the normal things – eat, drink and play music – but unwinding just doesn't come into the equation in today's environment.

What motivates you on a Monday morning?Getting into work to finish what I was supposed to have done over the weekend and never got round to, and getting back into the action. I don't need too much motivation on the basis that I don't totally switch off. I'm a naturally self-motivated and glass-half-full kind of person.

Whose job would you most like to have and why?Michael Schumacher, because he has that winning feeling more times than most.

What is your biggest regret?This really goes back to my school days, and that's not fulfilling my sporting aspirations. For some reason I just never got there.

What are you most proud of having achieved?This was some 20 years ago and I was doing a review of our operations in my previous employment and I recognised the impact of environmental claims (things like Asbestosis and Agent Orange) and the impact that was having on the servicing of our current business. I ring-fenced those claims and set up a separate company within the firm to handle those specialist legacy areas of claims. It grew into a very successful business.

What factors have enabled you to get to where you are today?Quite simply, it's hard work and getting results.