An interview with Ken LeStrange, the chief executive officer of Endurance Specialty Holdings Ltd.

The 51-year-old has taken Endurance Speciality Holdings Ltd to staggering heights. In just seven years, through a mixture of organic growth and mergers and acquisitions, the company has more than 700 employees in Bermuda, the United Kingdom and the United States and has grown to more than $7.2bn in assets $2.5bn in shareholders’ equity.

Despite his status, LeStrange, whose impressive career spans Hartford Insurance Group, Swiss Re, American Re and latterly as a senior executive of Aon Corp, is known as being a very down to earth family man who is well liked in business circles. And the native New Yorker has reinsurance in his blood – his father spent his career at American Re and General Re.

Choose four adjectives to describe yourself.

Grounded, open, driven and fair.

Which historical figure do you most admire and why?

Winston Churchill. His statesmanship and leadership was exceptional. As an individual, he clearly changed the course of history. I also admire his accomplishments as a historian and artist.

Who in this industry do you most admire and why?

Peter Lewis of Progressive. His creative and sometimes unorthodox approach to business has created a company that is excellent in every dimension of its operations. He is also a generous philanthropist.

Outside of this industry what issue are you most passionate about?

The need for better leadership and greater accountability at every level of government in the United States.

What qualities do you most admire in other people?

Passion, honesty, and commitment.

What qualities do you most dislike?

Apathy, hypocrisy and lack of commitment.

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

Where and when major hurricanes would occur.

What was the last thing that surprised you?

The credit crisis that began in the US and spread around the world. The magnitude and breadth of the credit crisis’ impact has been surprising.

How do you unwind at the end of the day?

Generally by reading.

What motivates you on a Monday morning?

At Endurance I’m surrounded by many talented and intelligent people. Working with them to tackle our short and long term opportunities is exciting.

Whose job would you most like to have and why?

I’m very happy with the one I have.

What is your biggest regret?

I wish I had spent more time with my children when they were growing up.

What are you most proud of having achieved?

My family. My wife Beth, my daughter Caitlin and my son Ken. They are terrific people; I’m very proud of them.

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

Good looks, charm, persistence, focus and learning from failures along the way.