Towers Watson's Ross Howard talks about his route to the top

How did you make it to where you are today?

By specialising in hard-to-place casualty business in the late 1970s. Also, being managing director for North American business at Denis M Clayton made me battle-hardened.

Who do you speak to regularly outside of your company?

Charles Phillips, chief executive of Amlin; Richard Ward, chief executive of Lloyd’s; Richard Trubshaw, founding partner of MAP (Managing Agency Partners); and Rob Childs, Hiscox chief underwriting officer and chairman of Hiscox USA

What are the key challenges ahead?

Solvency II in Europe, plus the question of growth for (re)insurers.

What has changed the most since you started in insurance?

In the ’70s, you could be writing business and, unless you visited clients, not be aware of all the exposure. That could never happen now.

What advice would you offer to someone just starting out?

Always be honest and open with underwriters and clients – trust and reputation are essential, especially in Lloyd’s.

What is the biggest mistake you’ve made?

Ignoring the obvious severity and frequency trends and deteriorating premiums, after many years of good results on business, which resulted in losses.

What do you do to relax?

I like watching sport and am very interested in rugby, being president of Esher Rugby Club.

What is your favourite book/film/football team?

Ripley’s World by Andy Ripley; The Shawshank Redemption; and Tottenham Hotspurs.

Ross Howard is chief executive, Europe, for reinsurance brokers Towers Watson