An interview with Jim Bryce, CEO of IPC Re

Choose four adjectives to describe yourself.

Focused, patient, forward-looking and I’d like to think quick-witted.

Which historical figure do you most admire and why?

Actually there are two historical figures. Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Bullwinkle the Moose. It was on US TV in the 1960s. I looked up to those guys in my formative years.

Who in this industry do you most admire and why?

It’s those people who have had the good sense to know when enough is enough. And quite frankly there are days when I want to say, “sod the world, I want to get off”. But reinsurance is a little bit like a drug and I’m not yet ready to go cold turkey.

Outside of this industry what are you most passionate about?

It’s almost blended in with the industry, because I love travelling and meeting people – I love getting historical facts – little details like why are the cities in California called “St”, like San Francisco and San Diego (they’re named after the missions formed to convert the Indians).

What qualities do you most admire in other people?

Honesty and the ability to learn new languages. Right now I’m trying to learn Italian and I’m dreaming of the day I can say: “Un pollo di te’ freddo e sushi, and get a chicken of ice tea and sushi!” Those who frequent the Harbour Front restaurant in Hamilton will know what I mean.

What qualities do you most dislike in other people?

Porky pies and dishonesty. I especially dislike people who can look you straight in the eye and tell you something with conviction when you know it’s absolutely untrue. Maybe that’s the nature of the reinsurance business with some of the brokers overselling their bids.

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

“My two favourites with the gift of the gab are Don Kramer and Michael Butt – they must have kissed the Blarney Stone more than twice

The one thing I’ve learnt now is that it doesn’t really matter if the company you run is successful or not. In fact, looking back it could be argued that reputations increase after failure. And then if you’ve been involved in multiple failures you’re some kind of an “industry icon”. I guess that is why you could describe me as understated.

What was the last thing that completely surprised you?

The last thing was probably the weather forecast for last year’s hurricane season, because they got it completely wrong. I’m very happy they got it wrong (although I guess we could have had a little bit of activity to sort the boys from the men. There’s this great saying from Warren Buffett that you really don’t know who has a bathing suit on and who’s in the nicky nu until the water recedes – and the water didn’t recede last year so we all looked the same.)

How do you unwind at the end of the day?

I think it really depends on what type of a day it is. When I lived in Japan they said you could either have a “Pearl Harbour Day” or a “Midway Day”. On the former you want to go home and kick the cat but on a latter things are a little bit more relaxed and you’ll run for 50 miles, workout with the body ball and then read a novel. I’ve never actually gone to either one of those extremes.

Whose job would you most like to have and why?

I would truly have to say it’s the job I have now, because of the people I work with, and have worked with.

What is your biggest regret?

I was looking through some old photographs and there was one of me in Ireland kissing the Blarney Stone. My biggest regret is not kissing it twice and getting the gift of gab that others have and which they have used to propel themselves to stardom. My two favourites with the gift of the gab are Don Kramer and Michael Butt – they must have kissed the Blarney Stone more than twice.

What are you most proud of having achieved?

Taking IPC from an idea, being the first employee, and building a solid and transparent company which I truly believe is one of the best around.

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

The ability not to take things too seriously, and to be able to laugh both at myself and the world.