The Business On: Bronek Masojada, Chief executive, Hiscox

The Ernie Wise to Lord Hiscox's Eric Morecambe?

Quite. Lord Hiscox is the chairman (the company is named after his family) and is entertainingly old school: charming, politically incorrect and inclined to say what he thinks. The South African Mr Masojada is very much the straight man, rather formal, measured, comfortable with business speak.

And?

And he's been known to blanche when Lord Hiscox really gets going (by which time his PR people are usually having heart palpitations).

Not that surprising given his background, though?

No, Mr Masojada's yet another McKinseyite (take a board, any board, and you'll probably find at least one) who has been at Hiscox since 1993. So he's used to his boss's eccentricities and is used to the insurance market's eccentricities.

What's he saying today?

That Hiscox isn't making as much money as it would like because of those eccentricities. The company saw sales, in the form of gross written premiums, slipping 3 per cent to £1.17bn during the first nine months of the year. In August, the interim pre-tax loss of £85.6m was worse than expected thanks to the Japanese earthquake and other catastrophes.

Ouch! Will things improve?

Trouble is, lots of investors see insurance as a good bet given the economic circumstances, and that's stopped premiums from rising. While Mr Masojada isn't the type to gush with optimism, though, he says rates are starting to edge up and Hiscox ought to benefit in January.

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