Hiscox people: Gary Bright

Head of Broker Service Delivery Gary Bright reveals who his greatest hero is and reflects on the importance of storytelling in business.

Time in insurance: Overall, I’ve been in insurance for 20 years, five of which have been with Hiscox. Before Hiscox, I was with other insurance companies, all of which were in London and retail. I also ran an insurance broker business, so it’s given me a good understanding of how things work on both sides.

What are you reading? I’m currently reading The Art of Running Faster by Don Melvin and Julian Goater, which, frankly, I hope works.

Favourite holiday destination: It has to be Bermuda. Partly because it’s absolutely beautiful and partly because my godchildren live there, so I get to see them two or three times a year.

Favourite place to be: Hadleigh Park. I’m fortunate to live opposite where they held the mountain biking events in the 2012 Olympics. It’s where I do my running and where I take my dogs for a walk. I often say to my wife that if there’s anywhere I’d like to scatter my ashes, it’d be there.

What’s your management style? I’m a demanding person, I expect a lot. I know people can often achieve more than they think so I hold high standards and will push people hard. Having said that, I like to think I’m also supportive and there for any help they want.

What motivates or inspires you? As with most things, it changes over time. I’m 38 – so not particularly old, but I’ve been 20 years in this business and what gets me up in the morning is helping others reach their potential. It’s not about insurance documents or compliance projects. It’s about working with people who go on to do wonderful things. On a personal level, I also like being given responsibility. You’re given the space to make your own decisions.

Are tough decisions best taken by one person or multiple people? If you’ve got time and space then I prefer to make collaborative decisions. While I do have strong opinions, I’m not stubborn in the slightest. But when we’re really up against it I think the team are looking to a leader to make a decision.

What does success look like to you? Happy and healthy. I talk to my team about this all the time. This is another one that has changed over time. If you’d have asked me when I was 25 what success looked like I’d have said that it was to get as senior as possible and earn as much money as possible. But I think you soon realise that, actually, if you can enjoy the time you spend at work and look after yourself both mentally and physically, it’s the perfect situation to be in.

Are your best decisions based on instinct or information?
It’s information for me but I’m not massively into detail, I don’t want waves of data – I just need enough information in order to make a decision. I always ask my team, ‘Where’s the evidence?’

Is it more important to be liked or respected?
You can be both but I doubt I am. The thing about Hiscox is that the people bring their ‘A’ game every day and you don’t want to let them down. You should try and be likeable but not prioritise it above all else.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given? I used to have a COO who always used to ask, ‘What’s the story?’ I think the importance of telling stories in business and bringing information to life is incredibly important.

What’s your biggest extravagance? I really don’t care about stuff. I have a seven or eight-year-old car and my motorbike is 10 years old. It’s about experiences for me. I love travelling, and I will never restrict myself when abroad.

What one thing would you change about yourself? I suffer with incredible anxiety before I present. I’m fairly good at it, if only I could kill the nerves. I present to a team of 60 or 70 people every couple of weeks and to 400 people every few months, but I really worry about it. I had to present to around 600 people one January and it ruined my Christmas.

Who are your heroes? I have to say my wife. She has supported me through my whole career. We often talk about the fact that my salary is jointly earned. She has raised our family, we have three children (17, 15 and 12), and she gave up work for me so I could travel with work. She’s just an absolute rock and the nicest person I’ve ever met. I’m a very annoying person, trust me, and she can handle anything.

What sets Hiscox apart from the rest? The people are genuinely better here than anywhere else. Everybody holds each other to account in a constructive way – you’re not going to get an easy ride. The relationships our underwriters have with our brokers are truly market leading. I’ve been around the block for a while in insurance and it really does set us apart. I think the leaders at Hiscox are truly empowered. It’s a unique place.

What products and services are you excited about? We’ve launched Hiscox+, which is the next stage in our operating model. We’re going to be offering much faster turnaround on smaller business, which means more time for brokers to spend on complex risks. This is backed up by our brand new underwriting system, Merlin. All of our products have been updated, all of our pricing refreshed – it’s going to be awesome.

What do you enjoy most about Hiscox? Being able to get on with it. A lack of red tape. A lack of pointless meetings. And living and dying by your performance and ideas.