An interview with Stephen Cane, European CEO of Whittington Group.

Choose four adjectives to describe yourself.

Fair, honest, loyal …and I am told I can be uppity.

Which historical figure do you most admire and why?

If you look for qualities like bravery and leadership, particularly in the current global political context, then I would have to choose Winston Churchill. However, I will go for Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He died in his early 50s and yet has left us an awesome legacy of industrial engineering achievements.

Who in this industry do you most admire and why?

I admire and respect people that have built something from scratch because it takes a number of attributes to make it happen – Peter Wood would be my choice. He launched Direct Line in the 1980s, completely changed the way motor and personal lines business is purchased and pioneered a whole new model for doing business.

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

I am concerned about the many issues related to crime and particularly the current lack of support for victims of crime when the emphasis at the moment appears to be focused on the rights of the perpetrators.

What qualities do you most admire in other people?

Integrity will always come first – professionally and personally. I also really admire dedication, particularly when it might be for a task that might be considered unsavoury or particularly challenging.

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

Just how big and diverse the sector is and the opportunities that exist.

What qualities do you most dislike in other people?

I think it is probably rudeness and the lack of respect for people and property. I value reliability and therefore, I don’t like being let down.

What was the last thing that completely surprised you?

“Spitzer’s fall from grace came as a great surprise to me and I think to a lot of people

The downfall of New York governor and former attorney general, Eliot Spitzer – his fall from grace came as a great surprise to me and I think to a lot of people.

How do you unwind at the end of the day?

My weeks are always busy so I really get to unwind at the weekend. I enjoy the fresh country air, watching England win a good game of rugby and occasionally seeing my favourite football team not lose. Lots of enjoyable time spent with family and friends would complete an ideal weekend.

What motivates you on a Monday morning?

I have always enjoyed what I do so I do not find Mondays or any other day difficult. I am usually keen to get things done so I can move on to the next thing.

Whose job would you most like to have and why?

I am not sure I covet anyone else’s job although I sometimes think I could do certain jobs better than the incumbent. Maybe a job that involves a favourite a sport or hobby is the answer but the fact is I have always been happy with what I have been doing and regard myself as very fortunate.

What is your biggest regret?

It is no use worrying too much about what might have been, but I know I missed out on an awful lot in not seeing more of my children when they were growing up.

What are you most proud of having achieved?

On a personal level it has to be my family and I am very proud of my children. In business it very much depends on what measure you apply because you go through many stages in your career although overall, I would say helping to build the last company I was with. Starting something from the very beginning, which was the case with the London operation, is not easy. It was hugely satisfying from both a personal and business perspective.

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

Commitment - I have always been very committed to whatever I have done and more often than not been quite passionate about it too. Consequently, I have not found it difficult put in the effort and work hard to do the best I can. I do not want to fail.

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