An interview with Hemant Shah, president and chief executive officer of Risk Management Solutions (RMS).

Choose four adjectives to describe yourself. Optimistic, enthusiastic, creative and modest.

Who in this industry do you most admire and why?Two people I particularly admire are Tom Hutton, who is currently CEO of White Mountains Re, and Terry Van Guilder who is currently CEO of Toa Re. Both Tom and Terry were mentors to me – Tom being CEO of RMS for many years in the 1990s, and Terry the chairman of RMS for three years in the 1990s. Tom really taught me about business and he had the patience to mentor me when I was in my early 20s, full of energy and enthusiasm but didn't really know much about anything.

Outside of this industry what issue are you most passionate about?That's easy. My family; my wife Danielle and my two little boys, Dante and Leo.

What qualities do you most admire in other people?I admire those with a sincere desire to do the right thing.

What qualities do you most dislike in other people?I truly dislike those who are arrogant and those who are calculating about their relationships with others.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started in this industry?The wonderful complexity of the insurance industry. When I first started at RMS 17 years ago, I somewhat naïvely got hold of a bunch of textbooks on insurance and reinsurance and tried to figure out what the hell was going on. I guess I should have tossed those books quite quickly. It was such a naïve approach to get the green insurance textbook and the reinsurance textbook and diligently read through it and pretty quickly I learned that the insurance industry is incredibly complicated. I should have realised that sooner.

What was the last thing that completely surprised you?Aside from the catastrophic failures of the levees in New Orleans! We live in a quantum world and I'm surprised if I'm not surprised every single day.

How do you unwind at the end of the day?After putting the kids to bed, cooking and drinking wine with Danielle. Actually, more to the point, Danielle just tells me what to chop up. Chopping and preparing food is actually extremely therapeutic. The tougher my day, the more garlic I need to mince when I get home! It sounds silly but it's nice to have that activity in the evening – otherwise I'd be laying awake at night worrying about work.

What motivates you on a Monday morning?A 30 minute shower, where I map out the entire day in my mind. It used to be a one hour shower, but I guess I'm getting more efficient in my old age.

Whose job would you most like to have and why?Actually I would say my own. I absolutely love it. I get to be entrepreneurial and grow RMS with what I term a “blue ocean” strategy; I get to work with a great team of people; I'm constantly intellectually challenged; and I get to add real value to the clients I serve.

What is your biggest regret?It's not a big one, but professionally I had the opportunity to live in London for a few years back in the formative days of RMS and I got as far as leasing a flat but unfortunately I had to abort the plan, allowing some short-term considerations to trump what would have been an amazing life experience. Even worse, I ended up doing two jobs and commuted back and forth between San Francisco and London for almost two years.

What are you most proud of having achieved?Being successful, whether in your professional or personal life, is certainly satisfying; but what I am proud of is having made an impact. An advisor that I trust greatly once challenged me by saying “So you're successful, so what? Are you significant?” I guess that quest will be a life-long journey.

What factors have enabled you to get where you are today? I think what's enabled me to get where I am today is a belief in, trust in, and respect for other people.