An interview with Chris O'Kane, chief executive officer of Aspen.
Choose four adjectives to describe yourself.
Determined, honest, strategic and Celtic.
Which historical figure do you most admire and why?
I think it would have to be Picasso – he lived for 93 years and was actively working for 80 of them which I think is even better than Hank Greenberg… or at least so far! I think Picasso revolutionised painting and constantly reinvented himself and the medium over and over again.
Who in this industry do you most admire and why?
I should probably find someone who is no longer with us to be diplomatic but I think I'd say Ajit Jain. Despite having the strongest balance sheet in the business and being a man whom every buyer seeks out, he is completely tireless in searching for new deals, new opportunities or a fresh angle. He is utterly focused on bringing the Berkshire capital to his customers. He is always the first up at conferences and happy to talk to anyone at any time. He has amazing determination and dedication.
Outside of this industry what issue are you most passionate about?
Family is the biggest and most important thing in my life, but for fun I love to ski. My favourite place to ski, and this is a coincidence I promise, is Aspen! Although I also like Val d'Isère and just the feeling of being free on the mountains.
What qualities do you most admire in other people?
The qualities I admire most are integrity and a good sense of fun.
What qualities do you most dislike in other people?
Thankfully there are not many of them in our industry but I really dislike deceitful people.
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started in this industry?
I wish I'd known that being a CEO required such a broad range of abilities. I didn't realise when I started that the job would have so many facets and I have been pleasantly surprised to discover that I need a real range of skills on a day-to-day basis.
What was the last thing that completely surprised you?
Seeing my daughter learn to walk three weeks ago. And if that wasn't enough, the next surprise was 10 days later when she started to ballet dance! Her older sister loves ballet and often practices in the sitting room and she just started to pirouette one day. It was truly amazing.
How do you unwind at the end of the day?
If I finish work in time I like to get home and play with the kids and put them to bed. I live near Regent's Park and if I have to work late then I will go for a run around the park. I find it's a great way to clear your head after a busy day at the office.
What motivates you on a Monday morning?
I don't really switch off over the weekend and so I actually look forward to coming in on a Monday and starting work again. I love the challenge of growing the company and pushing things forward. We have been going through some major changes in recent months, including making changes to our catastrophe exposures, and I anticipate further strengthening of the way we operate in the near future.
Whose job would you most like to have and why?
I know it's a bit sad and in fact my wife advised me against saying this but I am very happy in the job I have and wouldn't change it for anything.
What is your biggest regret?
My biggest regret, believe it or not, is not learning to ski until the age of 44. I really wish I had started earlier in life as it is a sport I absolutely love.
What are you most proud of having achieved?
Following on from the last question, I am really proud that I have not only learnt to ski, but that I now feel confident enough to tackle any run, on or off piste. On a personal level, that is such a big achievement for me.
What factors have enabled you to get where you are today?
A mixture of things but I think the most important one is self belief. Without that belief I am not sure I would have the drive and passion to have got to where I am today.