Willis Re's Peter Hearn on how he got to where he is today

How did you make it to where you are today?

Hard work and being the beneficiary of a lot of other people’s wisdom. I was trained in the London market by my father, who was in the business, and my colleagues at Willis Re have helped me grow.

How has the industry changed since you first joined it?

While the importance of relationships has remained a constant, there has been a sea change in the level of technical proficiency. The advent of both catastrophe and financial modelling has brought an entirely new dimension to the business.

I also think there has been a change in the quality of individuals in the business. I wouldn’t have made it into the ranks today.

What would you say are the key challenges ahead for you and the industry?

One of the key challenges is determining the role reinsurance plays as companies’ balance sheets grow stronger and their ability to retain risk becomes greater. In addition, regulatory oversight is rife in the financial services sector, and the advent of Solvency II will create challenges for our clients and business opportunities for Willis Re.

It would be naïve to assume that the insurance industry is immune from a ‘black swan’ type of event. The challenge for the reinsurance sector is to provide access to new capital in such an event.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in reinsurance?

Take advantage of as much training as you can.

What comes to mind when you think of your friends and contemporaries in the market?

The friends and colleagues I made in London as a young man have stayed with me my whole life.

What do you do to relax?

I like to shoot, hunt, fish, play tennis and golf, and spend time with my family.

Peter Hearn is chief executive of Willis Re