An interview with Graham Pewter, chief executive officer of Catlin Bermuda

Choose four adjectives to describe yourself.

Honest, enthusiastic, open-minded, impatient.

What qualities do you most admire in other people?

I warm to people with a good sense of humour. We all like to laugh - as they say it's the best medicine. Put me in a room with a bunch of Monty Python fans and I'm happy.

I admire intelligence, a big part of which is the exercise of judgment.

In business, it's also the ability to think laterally, to think outside the box. Problem solving derived from looking at a proposition from a different point of view - and then executing the solution - provides a key competitive edge.

What qualities do you most dislike in other people?

I don't like selfishness or egotism. Nobody likes an individual who puts self-interest before all else. There is also a big difference between people with strong opinions and those with big egos. The former are a pleasure to deal with in an environment where open debate is encouraged.

As for the latter, egotism has been defined as nature's compensation for mediocrity - and I think that just about sums it up.

Perhaps it's a British thing but I have no patience for people who have no regard for punctuality. It signals a lack of respect and is just plain rude.

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

Fundamentally, how interesting the insurance business becomes once a little experience is gained and work becomes more challenging. I spent my first few years in the industry wondering if I had made a good career choice.

Also, I now know how important it is to trust your instincts. Young underwriters are easily put under pressure when making decisions; if your inner voice is telling you that something is not right, just stand firm - you will be respected for it. And in that regard, don't be afraid to say "no".

It's a very small word, but for many a difficult one to use.

What was the last thing that completely surprised you?

I was stunned on September 11, 2001 when I learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Trying to absorb that information was a surreal experience.

What motivates you on a Monday morning?

I don't think my motivations differ on any particular morning. Over the last three years we have assembled a talented group of people in Bermuda and the office is always buzzing with ideas and activity. We work hard and remember to have fun along the way.

Whose job would you most like to have and why?

I'm a musician - a drummer to be precise. Long ago I cut my hair and bought a suit when I realised that playing in a band was not going to pay the bills, but music remains my first love. I suppose the job I covet the most would be playing in Eric Clapton's band.

What is your biggest regret?

I've done many things that were probably ill advised, but I believe that the decisions we make in life are the right ones for us at the time - part of a learning process.

In business, the best managers are those who have made mistakes and learned from them. Those that have not learned tend to become repeat offenders - which is dangerous to say the least.

What are you most proud of having achieved?

Somehow persuading my wife to marry me, being the father of three great sons, a career that has led me to becoming CEO of Catlin Bermuda, running a marathon and having the dogged perseverance to be a Crystal Palace supporter for more than 40 years.

What factors have enabled you to get where you are today?

Firstly, a strong determination to succeed - I am competitive by nature and do not like to fail. I genuinely like people and I am empathetic by nature. I think this has enabled me to build and maintain relationships throughout the years.

I have always been able to identify opportunity when it has presented itself; moving to Bermuda many years ago was a good example of that.

Finally, maintaining a sense of balance. Business is demanding and the support of family and friends keeps me grounded and serves as a reminder that my life isn't defined solely by my career.