Paul Greensmith, RSA’s global business director, on how he got to the top

How did you make it to where you are today?

When I came back from travelling after university, I knew that I wanted to join a multinational company. I was attracted to RSA because it seemed a straightforward organisation. I joined in 1997 and had regional and London market underwriting jobs before ending up in group centre as the group strategy director. I left for two years to manage the Lloyd’s strategy and planning team (which was a fantastic learning experience) and went back to RSA in early 2005 as the strategy and marketing director for the commercial business. I managed our multinational P&C business for UK and Europe until last December when I was appointed global business director.

What are the key challenges?

RSA is a fantastic business with great performance, financial security and people. Our challenge is to build on that platform but communicate our qualities more overtly than we have done.

What has changed most since you started?

The professionalism and discipline in the industry. Most businesses now have pricing models, solid underwriting licence structures and controls, cat models, etc. The challenge is to use those tools and disciplines to support capable underwriters.

What advice would you give someone starting out?

Work hard and be prepared to take a risk. Often you learn much more during the tough times than when things are going smoothly. And build relationships – people then will be much more prepared to work with you, teach you and take a risk on you in a job.

What is your biggest mistake?

Years ago I was working on a small restructure. The printer was miles away, it was late and I forgot to pick up a copy of the document. The next day members of the team seemed remarkably well informed about the changes!

What is your biggest success?

The way my existing team has risen to the challenge over the past 18 months and reduced expenses, achieved sensible rate increases and grown the business by about10%. I look forward to increasing that success over the next few years.

Who are your contemporaries and friends in the industry?

I owe a lot to Brendan McManus (chief executive of Willis UK) and Stuart Degg (chief executive of Libero) who were great bosses. David Johnston, an insurance manager at the FSA, is probably the oldest friend as he joined the RSA graduate scheme with me in 1997.

What is your unique selling point?

I tend to work well with people and work hard to build relationships. I have a reputation for getting stuff done.

What do you do to relax?

I play the odd game of squash and do a couple of runs a week. I love films and travel. I also have three children which tends to take up a lot of time.

What is your favourite book/film/football team?

Book: Historical action books such as Sharpe, Hornblower, and so on.

Film: Where Eagles Dare or The Magnificent Seven.

Football: Manchester United and Preston North End.