An interview with Richard Tolliday, chief executive officer of Omega Re.

Choose four adjectives to describe yourself

Focused, determined, rational, big-eared.

Which historical figure do you most admire and why?

I admire those who have exhibited the personal courage to stand up against injustices and changed the lives of many. An obvious example is Martin Luther King and his championing of civil rights with his leadership of a non-violent opposition to violent prejudice.

Who do you most admire in this industry?

I consider myself fortunate to have worked for many years with Tony Holt, the recently retired director of underwriting at Amlin plc. Tony is easily one of the most talented underwriters of his generation and is incredibly generous in his willingness to share his thoughts and ideas. He combines profound intuition with a rigorous analysis and challenging of his own conclusions.

What are you most passionate about outside insurance?

The arts, whether literature, drama, film or any other, are vitally important. Apart from being enjoyable, they are probably

the most effective means of combating prejudices.

What qualities do you most admire in other people?

Integrity, conscientiousness, dedication, humility, courage and humour.

What qualities do you most dislike?

The lack of the qualities I admire.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started in this industry?

The dates of all major insured catastrophes in the past 30 years.

What was the last thing that surprised you?

The extent and impact of the global economic and financial crisis. Each component causal factor might have been apparent as a risk, but the cumulative effect has been astonishing. At the root of it all, I have been shocked at how many seemingly intelligent people still believed in “free lunches”.

How do you unwind?

Helping my seven-year-old son practise his sports is a great way to restore perspective.

What motivates you on a Monday morning?

Working with a dedicated, talented and enthusiastic team of colleagues in a business that has achieved so much but has great opportunities ahead.

Whose job would you most like to have?

I don’t covet anyone else’s job. My own provides challenges and satisfaction. I can think of plenty I wouldn’t want.

What is your biggest regret?

I believe in learning from past events and outcomes but I don’t carry regrets. They are a waste of energy. Do it better next time and seize the next opportunity.

What are you most proud of having achieved?

Two happy children. Not that I am claiming even half of the credit.

What has enabled you to get where you are today?

Anyone can achieve a lot by just caring. After that the biggest factor has to be being fortunate enough to work with good people. Omega is full of good people who care a lot.