Bobby Gracey, Crawford & Company’s vice-president, global counter-fraud, on how he got to the top

How did you make it to where you are today?

I started as one of the first employees of Direct Line when it opened in Glasgow. Then I joined Glasgow loss adjuster Christie & Company, which gave me a fantastic loss adjusting education. After four happy years there, I was approached by what was then McLarens, where I started in fraud prevention and rose to a regional manager. Then one day I was called by Ian Muress, who had worked with me at McLarens but had become UK and Ireland chief executive for Crawford & Company. He convinced me my career lay with Crawford, so seven days later I had become its UK technical manager, designing and implementing a counter-fraud service.

After the successful UK launch of Counter Fraud Solutions, I was promoted to head of counter-fraud solutions, Europe Middle East & Africa, before moving to my current position in December 2007.

What challenges lie ahead?

In the past five years huge progress has been made in handling fraud, particularly in data sharing. But the issue is evolving so quickly, we still have a long way to go.

What has changed most since you started in insurance?

Fraud identification and containment is now central to most businesses’ key performance indicators. Historically, fraud management was a ground-up activity, but the financial impact of fraudulent claims on profit means it is now top down.

Parts of the insurance process, especially claims, have become rather commoditised, sometimes at the expense of the customer.

What advice would you offer a new starter in the business?

Never doubt your own ability and stay true to your beliefs – positive influence tends to succeed. Business planning is key to any senior management position and I am conscious of the saying “fail to plan, plan to fail”.

What has been your biggest mistake?

At times I have perhaps been too willing to help whatever the situation. Priorities are important; it is sometimes better to say no and delegate instead. This means you’re likely to be more personally effective too.

What has been your biggest success?

Counter Fraud Solutions. There’s a feeling of family in the counter-fraud team as we have all witnessed its birth and seen it grow stronger every day.

What do you do to relax?

When time permits, I love nothing more than having a Blackberry-free round of golf at my home course of Haggs Castle in Glasgow. The game itself is a fantastic leveller because the handicap system means you can play anyone.

What is your favourite book / film / football team?

I have enjoyed the Dan Brown series, particularly Angels & Demons, but I also enjoy autobiographies of successful sports or business people.

My sporting passion is Clyde Football Club – now in the Scottish Division 2 – for whom I played before joining the insurance industry.