An interview with Robbie Klaus, CEO and chief underwriting officer of Glacier Re
Choose four adjectives to describe yourself. Dynamic, energetic, focused and fun, but also impatient.
What qualities do you most admire in other people? Honesty, above all else, and a willingness to work as part of a team are two of the attributes I rate highly in other people. When you're starting a business from scratch, you are reminded that employing people who are good team players is the single most important factor in any company's success.
What qualities do you most dislike in other people? Quite simply the opposite of the above. Firstly, dishonesty. Secondly, an inability to operate as part of a team. Also - and this is perhaps my pet hatred - a quality I dislike and am unable to understand is simply not caring - be that about family, business or life in general.
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started in this industry? It took the industry 15 years and a number of significant losses to become more numbers-driven and sophisticated. I know I would not be alone in wishing that the industry had woken up to its shortfalls earlier and that I had been able to do more to improve our processes and our general image. Insurance is fundamental to all aspects of life and the industry supports international trade and investment, which people do tend to forget. I have often found it frustrating to see insurers portrayed time and time again in a negative light. I also wish I'd known at the beginning what legacy issues like asbestos, casualty business and long-tail liability can do, and did do, to companies.
What was the last thing that completely surprised you? The strong reaction from the industry to the sources of capital that make up Glacier Re's investors. Whilst we expected some eyebrows to be raised slightly, the amount of attention lavished upon us for having hedge funds amongst our main investors was extremely surprising.
What motivates you on a Monday morning? The same thing that motivates me on a Tuesday and every other day of the week. I'm alive, healthy, have a wonderful family, make a good living and I'm surrounded by great people at work. I consider myself to be extremely lucky.
Whose job would you most like to have and why? I can honestly say that right now I don't see any other role that I would want more than my current one. To run my own company has always been my main ambition and to realise the dream by establishing Glacier Re has been one of the most exciting experiences of my life. If for some reason I couldn't do this job, any alternative would, I hope, involve fast red cars, speedboats or snow. In an ideal world, I would find a way to combine all three.
What is your biggest regret? Not having started Glacier Re much sooner. I should have done it ten years ago. Although given what we have achieved so far it is difficult to class this as an actual regret!
What are you most proud of having achieved? In business, my achievements over the past year in establishing a major European reinsurer, with the help of some fantastic investors and colleagues. I'm delighted that Glacier Re has firmly established itself as a recognisable brand in an extremely short space of time. However, attracting such a diverse, talented and experienced group of individuals from major corporations to what was then a start-up company is the thing that makes me most proud. The team has more than doubled since January 2005 and we're already in the process of moving to a new headquarters to accommodate everyone and be prepared for future growth. Our business is doing extremely well and we've made our mark in the industry very quickly thanks to them.
What factors have enabled you to get where you are today? On a personal level, determination, motivation and honesty are the main factors. Support from colleagues and mentors over many years has also been invaluable. I certainly wouldn't be where I am today without their generosity and willingness to share their expertise. I've been extremely lucky to have learnt from the best in the business.