Hiscox people: Tom Hird

Development Underwriter Tom Hird talks tough decisions, walking on hot coals, impromptu cycling tours and his appointment to the Reach team

Time in insurance:
I started here in 2015, and, barring my own personal experience with car insurance, the business sector is the only one I’ve ever known.

I studied sports journalism at university and graduated in 2011 before going on to write football match previews, reports, that sort of thing. I also provided sports tips and analysis for bookmakers’ websites, which – strangely enough – is what led me to the underwriter role. Even then I enjoyed the risk and analytical side of things.

Last book read:
The book I’m reading at the moment is Dunkirk by Joshua Levine. I was a huge fan of the recent Christopher Nolan film so I went straight out and bought the book. It’s a period of history I knew very little about so I’m keen to learn.

Favourite holiday destination:
I’m a big traveller but my favourites have to be Austria and Italy. I always find myself going back to them whenever I get a chance.

Are tough decisions best taken by one person?
It depends. If you’re in a team environment it’s always a good idea for everyone to have the opportunity to contribute. At the same time, you need someone strong enough to take responsibility for any decision that turns sour. I think as long as the choice is based on a sound judgement and rationale then people will respect it.

What does success look like?
Being part of a team that helps a company grow and achieve goals on a continuous basis.

Are your best decisions based on instinct or experience?
Personally, I think the best decisions are always based on information; I’d say some seem like they’re based on instinct when in fact they’re based on knowledge. Like the best footballers in the world, some people can make decisions instantaneously but they’re actually based on experience and knowledge.

Is it more helpful to be liked or respected?
Respected, but I don’t see them as being mutually exclusive. Not everyone is going to like everyone else but as long as there’s an element of respect that’s a huge positive.

Best advice ever given to you?
All humans are ridiculous. It’s something a university lecturer told me a while back. Everyone deep down has ridiculous traits and no one understands completely what they’re doing. The important thing is not to feel intimidated by anyone because of their job title, wealth or intelligence. Have confidence in yourself and don’t get hung up on what everyone else is doing.

What is your greatest extravagance?
On a day-to-day basis, I don’t think I have one. But I do a lot of activities others might not – bungee jumping, skydiving, that sort of thing. Walking over hot coals is one I’ve dabbled in a couple of times. I ended up with a few minor burns but the important thing is to walk at the exact right pace. Too quickly and you’ll sink into the ground; too slowly and you’ll burn.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Probably when, back in the summer of 2014, I cycled with a mate from the UK to Spain with nothing but a tent, a couple of sleeping bags and a couple hundred euros. We weren’t exactly the fittest individuals. We just hatched a plan in a pub one night, booked a ferry and said, ‘Let’s get there in two and half weeks.’ People told us we couldn’t do it, but we managed it quite comfortably in the end. Probably the best experience of my life.

What do you think sets Hiscox apart from the competition?
Definitely the management and the amount of talent. Everyone you talk to has that knowledge to push the company forwards – more so than any other I’ve worked at. You just have that confidence the company is going to grow.

What Hiscox products or service opportunities are you most excited about this year?
We’re getting a brand-new system, Merlin, which is going to improve efficiency and our ability to understand the needs of our customers. It’ll be a great thing for our customers and for us.

What do you enjoy most about working for Hiscox?
Everyone’s approachable, even the upper management. They’re always happy to give advice on how to improve. It’s also an extremely generous company in terms of staff rewards and benefits ­– certainly more than any other I’ve known.