1 What's the first lesson that you learnt in business?
Enthusiasm. It's the enthusiasts who succeed. You can have all the great qualifications you like, the best network, the best contacts, but if you're not enthusiastic you won't be a success in comparison to the enthusiast. No matter what job you do, no matter what task you undertake, if you've got the enthusiasm it makes a huge amount of difference, and when I talk to schoolchildren or management trainees that's something I tell them about.
2How important is your personal profile for your business?
I think it's important because I think this industry needs champions. We need leaders to stand up for what we believe in in terms of informing consumers and increasing awareness of the value of what we do. So - yes - my profile is important.
3 You're a great believer that philanthropy and charity have a place in business - why?
Business doesn't exist on its own. It exists in communities, and I feel that we should put something back into the communities from which we draw our profit. Consumers are increasingly interested in what corporations believe about society and communities and issues from global warming to social deprivation. Having those values in an organisation also makes a huge difference to the employees who work there; it creates a difference in the company atmosphere. You can see that on the [university] milk rounds when the graduates come in: Companies with a reputation for a social conscience tend to attract more graduates.
4You've been described as feisty. Is that fair?
I think I've got spirit and that I am passionate in defending my beliefs. If that is feisty, then yes.
5What was the worst investment you made?
Having three young children, I thought I would make a great investment by becoming a Name at Lloyd's to help pay for school fees. I was fortunate because I was prudent in terms of my underwriting amount and I had a very good agent who was looking after me at the time, so I didn't lose hugely.
6What was the best investment you made?
In the early 1980s I had three young children. Every time I got a salary increase - no matter how modest it was - I took out a new savings policy on the basis that I wouldn't miss that portion of my income. I did this regularly for umpteen years and they have accumulated.
7What's the best piece of advice that anyone ever gave you?
Worry is an unproductive pastime, achieves nothing and can be damaging to the individual. Of course, we are human beings and it is difficult not to worry at times, but tell yourself that worry is pointless, that it achieves nothing.
8Do you see another Equitable Life happening?
No, I think the industry is very strong and I think the circumstances were unique. You can never say "never" in any situation, but I think it was a tragedy that it happened to Equitable, the world's oldest life company. I hope there will be a market resolution for them, but I think that the industry is very strongly regulated and prudently managed financially. I think consumers have nothing to worry about.
9Whom do you most admire in your industry?
I've been working with a team from within the industry for the last two and a half years on an initiative called Saltr (Savings and Long Term Risk) to raise standards in the insurance industry, which has been hugely difficult. I work closely with Mike Ross, who is chief executive of Lloyds TSB on the life side, and he's been an absolute unflinching stalwart. We've been a very good duo in helping to drive this forward.
and he has been a constant source of strength to me.
10 What would you most like to change about your industry?
Media perception. When the media comment on the industry they tend to comment on the negatives but that is true about everything, isn't …