An interview with Tom Hutton, CEO of White Mountains Re Group.
Choose four adjectives to describe yourselfCurious, determined, dedicated and outgoing (ambitious too).
If you likened yourself to an historical figure, who would it be and why?Perhaps Ernest Shackleford, captain of the Endeavor. He had the courage and sense of bold adventure to pursue his dreams and his vision. He did not allow his personal ambition to cloud his sense of responsibility and leadership.
Who in this industry do you most admire and why?I admire Ajit Jain [president of Berkshire Hathaway Reinsurance Group] and Jack Byrne [former chairman, president and CEO of White Mountains] for different reasons. Ajit has maintained an unwavering focus, resulting in an enormously influential role. Jack, because he is both a personal and a business inspiration to me.
Outside of this industry, what issues are you most passionate about?I enjoy creating things. I'm passionate about solving problems and about finding new and simpler ways to do things. I like technology. I have a special love for boats and being on the water. I am dedicated to my family, and to the schools and people who have been important to my life and career.
What qualities do you most admire in other people?I admire integrity, intelligence, curiosity, and teamwork. Great organisations are built by individuals who care about performing, help others to perform, and constantly strive to improve.
What qualities do you most dislike in other people?I dislike dishonesty, arrogance, self-centeredness, and any behavior that unnecessarily embarrasses or degrades colleagues, customers or competitors. These are individual characteristics that lead to poor organisational performance.
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started in the industry?Since I knew essentially nothing about insurance and reinsurance when I started as CEO of RMS in 1990, the list is very long! I wish that I had started out with a better sense of the role of relationships in the industry. I have come to appreciate the role of advisers, brokers and agents. However, I remain convinced that many aspects of our industry could be improved with the use of better technology and information.
What was the last thing that completely surprised you?I was surprised at how easy it was for me to decide to leave behind my independent business and lifestyle of five years, and take on this opportunity as CEO of White Mountains Re.
How do you unwind at the end of the day?I actually try to unwind at the beginning of the day, with a swim. I find that if I start the day this way, I generally remain upbeat. The end of the day always includes communicating with my family. I find it healthy to remember that my wife and children experienced things in their own days that are just as important as my business issues.
What motivates you on a Monday morning?I look forward to Monday. Organisational accomplishments obviously take time, and time is scarce.
Whose job would you most like to have and why?I really don't long for another job, but perhaps 007's would be a step up. I'd even settle for the screen role. Within the industry, I am currently where I want to be.
What is your biggest regret?Almost anyone who reaches middle age wishes that they could have had a greater appreciation for their youth. I regret not listening more carefully to the various mentors and advisors who took the time to help me during my youth.
What are you most proud of having achieved?I am very proud of RMS and what it has become. We started from nothing and believed in our vision and persevered, and now the company plays an important role in the industry.
What factors have enabled you to get where you are today?I've benefited from having talented and influential people believe in me. And I have been unwilling to let them down. My key has been to treat people well, and to show my appreciation for what they do to help me.