An interview with Grahame Chilton, chief executive officer of Benfield
Choose four adjectives to describe yourself?
Focused, passionate, sincere and spontaneous.
What qualities do you most admire in other people?
Integrity, trust and loyalty are all very important qualities for me. So too is the ability to work as part of a team. At Benfield we have a strong team-based culture. I think it is more satisfying to win together than it is to win alone. For example in some sports you get star players who like to play on their own, and normally they are not very good team players. I prefer stars that work as part of a team. I also respect people that do not take themselves too seriously.
What qualities do you most dislike in other people?
It is the opposite of all of those things - selfishness, arrogance and a lack of respect for other people. People who show these characteristics do not work well as part of a team.
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started in this industry?
Without doubt, I wish I had better foreign language skills. Today we work in a global business with people based in many different countries. As part of the leadership team of an international business, it would certainly help to be able to speak a second language, such as Spanish, Japanese or Mandarin, but with little free time and also being dyslexic, it is going to be very hard for me to learn a new language now.
What was the last thing that completely surprised you?
The extent to which everyone was surprised by the New York Attorney General's findings. Most experienced industry practitioners would have known that there were many things going on which were not correct. Leveraging has been going on in this industry for years and everyone knew about it. At Benfield, we made a choice not enter into any of those practices, and if we came across them in any of the businesses we acquired we stopped them. So people did have a choice, and I am surprised that everyone is so surprised at what was unearthed.
What motivates you on a Monday morning?
Knowing that I will be going in to work to lead a truly winning team. That is a great motivator. People ask me why I continue working and I have a simple answer: I don't see it as work but as fun and I love it. This is a big part of my life.
Whose job would you most like to have and why?
This is probably going to sound a bit sad but I truly love the job that I have and would not change it for anything. I would have loved the opportunity to turn around a business. The idea of looking at a business, working out what is wrong with it and trying to sort out the problem - that really interests me. But if I had to work in another industry then being a motor sport nut it would have to be in motor sports.
What is your biggest regret?
That is very difficult for me to answer because I do not have many regrets. There are things that I miss, such as working with my former business partner Matthew Harding. I deeply regret the fact that we never saw the best that we could have seen from Matthew, because he died so young. But I loved working with him because he had a great sense of humour and was fun to work with. My biggest personal regret is not having seen any of my childrens' nativity plays - something that my wife recently reminded me about.
What are you most proud of having achieved?
It is the 'collective' achievement that we have all achieved at Benfield. When I joined we had about 100 people and a turnover of about £3m-£4m and today we have grown to over 1,700 people around the world and a turnover of over £300m. I certainly do not take the credit for this achievement because it has been very much a team effort. But I am certainly very proud of having led a team that has achieved so much so quickly.
What factors have enabled you to get where you are today?
Being approachable, relaxed, listening to colleagues and customers and being prepared to accept that others have a point of view that should be heard and respected. I have always tried to stick to my guns regarding what I believe in and taken our business and our customers very seriously, but at the same time never taken myself too seriously.