Keith Hector, distribution director, commercial lines, at AXA Insurance, on how he made it to the top

How did you make it to where you are today?

I’ve worked with some talented people who have been great role models. I also got my head down and worked hard.

What are the key challenges ahead?

I’ve not heard consistent economic forecasts from one quarter to the next, so the backdrop is uncertain. Delivering profit in what I believe will be a flatter market cycle going forwards. We’re also going to witness the next stage of the evolution of the consolidator model. We already have gathering momentum in e-traded models and we’re beginning to witness the emergence of aggregation in the commercial space. I think that together, those models will dramatically increase the pace of commoditisation at the lower end of the SME market, and new entrants could win at the expense of the traditional broker market.

For AXA specifically: reinforcing the broker market’s faith in our capabilities and delivery. Understanding that all customers are different, and learning how to build productive relationships based on the outlook and potential of each business, rather than ‘one size fits all’.

What has changed the most since you started in insurance?

The broker market. Early in my career, I dealt with agencies with solicitors, estate agents, motorcycle dealers, building societies and people who worked from a cupboard under the stairs. I saw a broker who wore a shell suit, smoked a fag at the ‘counter’, and swore at his customers. The market is now infinitely more professional, and that’s excellent news for the end customer.

What advice would you offer to someone just starting out?

Be yourself – build on your strengths. Study via the CII or in your own field of interest to help increase your outlook. Learn from the successful people around you. Deliver what you set out to achieve. Admit when you are wrong, but move on from your mistakes. Don’t let people down. Be honest.

What is the biggest mistake you ever made?

Not checking a contract properly.

What was your biggest success?

My daughter, Charlie. Business-wise, working with a fantastic team to move our personal lines broker account from £290m to over £600m in three years.

What is your unique selling point?

I’ve never wasted time thinking about that!

Talk about some of your contemporaries and friends in the insurance market

I’m not spreading gossip. Not here, anyway!

What do you do to relax?

I’ve got a one-year-old daughter, so ‘time to relax’ is a long-forgotten memory. I’ll come back to you in 17 years on that one.

What is your favourite book/film/football team?

Book: There is a Happy Land by Keith Waterhouse; film: Withnail and I; football team: the mighty Leeds United, marching on together … I’m glad you didn’t ask for favourite band – that could have taken forever..