An interview with Simon Gander, CEO of Gallagher Re
Choose four adjectives to describe yourself.
Energetic, ambitious, dedicated, fun-loving.
If you likened yourself to a historical figure who would it be and why?
Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He was such a determined individual. Even when his ideas were challenged, he strengthened his resolve and remained totally committed to achieving his goals.
Who in this industry do you most admire and why?
I think it's easy to admire all sorts of people from a relative distance and I suspect Warren Buffet's name would come to many people's minds. I like his dismissal of the material benefits of wealth and his focus on values and value.
Outside of this industry what issue are you most passionate about?
I find the steady deterioration of social standards in the UK and the mind-numbing nature of much of what is pushed onto us by the media, very concerning. Our apparent obsession with celebrity and reality TV, coupled with a growing lack of basic discipline and manners is just awful. I would bring back National Service, if I had the choice.
What qualities do you most admire in other people?
I admire people who are genuine. Our world contains so many competing influences and although people may aspire to be genuine, it is a difficult thing to achieve. Brokers in particular find it hard to tell it how it really is, as there is often another agenda in the way. I have great admiration for those in business who speak candidly.
What qualities do you most dislike in other people?
I dislike anyone who exhibits double standards. That wonderful situation when everyone nods their head in agreement and\or says nothing around the table, only to leave the room and openly contradict what has been agreed. The disagreement in itself is not the issue, but the manner in which it is exhibited shows a lack of integrity.
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started in this industry?
I've been in reinsurance for over 20 years and the experience I have gained is invaluable. Having the technical expertise I have now would have been a great asset when I was younger. That said, knowing more (although you never stop learning) about how to deal with people would have been the greatest advantage.
How do you unwind at the end of the day?
My wife's answer was that I don't and that "tapping away on my Blackberry or being on the mobile" doesn't constitute relaxing. My answer is very simple - red wine and a decent film. I always try to read before I go to sleep, which seems to clear my mind.
What was the last thing that completely surprised you?
I was standing behind a man my age and an older man in a coffee shop in the US earlier this week. The older man was struggling to count out the right money and was becoming a little distressed. The other man, who was a total stranger to him, simply stepped forward and said "don't worry, have this one on me". I haven't seen such a spontaneous show of goodwill for some time.
What motivates you on a Monday morning?
I rarely have that Monday morning feeling. You either have a commitment to what you do and feel enthused by the challenges it presents or you don't. I suspect that people who don't like Mondays struggle with the rest of the week.
Whose job would you most like to have and why?
I'm a keen golfer and although every career has its challenges, I think that being a top sporting professional is the sort of job I would love. If you are any good, you can make a great living from doing what you enjoy most, whilst establishing business assets in things that really interest you.
What are you most proud of having achieved?
My mother used to tease me that she wanted two blonde granddaughters. By far my greatest achievement!
What factors have enabled you to get where you are today?
I've been lucky enough to spend much of my career around very high calibre individuals. Several in particular have imparted to me the sort of knowledge and wisdom that is invaluable.