An interview with Inga Beale, chief executive officer of Converium.

Choose four adjectives to describe yourself. Determined and competitive. I have bags of energy and am very loyal – a very Taurean trait!

If you likened yourself to a historical figure who would it be and why?It would be Eleanor Roosevelt. She did what she had to do and wasn't someone who necessarily planned her career. Things came along and she did them and achieved great things. That's very much how I've been in my career.

Who in this industry do you most admire and why?There is not any one individual but groups of individuals with certain traits. These are the risk takers and the innovators in the industry. Those who really challenge the norm and are the catalysts for change – change for the better that is.

Outside of this industry what issue are you most passionate about?Globalisation is a great thing – it really aids communication and provides access to information for people around the world. But things aren't working quite that way yet. I would love to see the opportunities more evenly distributed.

What qualities do you most admire in other people?Integrity, flexibility and a positive approach.

What qualities do you most dislike in other people?Big egos – they can get in the way of making the best business decisions.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started in this industry?When you start your first job – like I started in the London market in 1982 – you get swept along and you very much want to be like your peers and managers because you feel that's how you have to be. But you don't have to be like them and you should never compromise your values.

What was the last thing that completely surprised you?One of the sad things about getting older is that you get fewer and fewer surprises, and I do love surprises. Although when you're running a company a surprise is the last thing you want. We have to be able to predict the future perfectly. One of the things I've been recently surprised about is how difficult Swiss German is to understand. When I was living in Munich I thought I was doing really well with my German language lessons but I tell you, Swiss German is very very different.

What motivates you on a Monday morning?My big driver is knowing that I'm starting another week of learning. It's great to continue to learn about people, to continue to learn about the industry and to experience new things.

How do you unwind at the end of the day?At the moment the end of my day is often very late. But when I do have an evening free I explore my new home here in Zurich by having dinner with friends, catching a concert or (when the weather is nice) having a drink by the shores of the lake and reminiscing about my old sporting days when I see the rowers go past.

Whose job would you most like to have and why?Mine of course! I'm loving it!

What is your biggest regret?I don't regret any of the biggest decisions I have made. But I have at times left it too late to thank some of the people who have had a strong positive influence on the different stages of my life.

What are you most proud of having achieved?Right now I'm feeling very proud about having been chosen to lead Converium into their next chapter. But I will also just look back briefly to when I was selected to represent the Nomads rugby team to play against the England women's squad. We didn't win the match but I was proud of every single tackle I made that stopped a try.

What factors have enabled you to get where you are today? Courage has been a big factor in my life – I have been faced with lots of things that I thought I couldn't do but overcame. Retaining the ability to laugh in all circumstances is also very important – however senior you get in your career.