Spotlight On... Robert Hiscox, chairman of insurer Hiscox

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The Independent Online

Probably the longest-serving executive in the City?

That's what Robert "Bertie" Hiscox is known as. When he puts aside his briefcase next spring, the father of five will have spent 43 years at the helm of Hiscox.

Daddy's boy?

When Bertie graduated with a degree in economics and law from Cambridge, he took a job at his father's firm in 1965, working as an underwriter of fine art. There were no computers - and Mr Hiscox says of the time: "We had to underwrite with mental arithmetic, and we got bloody good at it – we didn't even have a calculator." There was trouble in paradise with Hiscox junior and senior at the helm: Bertie wanted to make changes, but his father said it would take years to learn the business. "I was deemed arrogant, but I think I was just confident," he has said.

Bloodless coup?

But on his father's death in 1970, 27-year-old Bertie saw off Hiscox's other co-founder, Anthony Roberts, saying to him: "It's my turn now. You've run it for 30 years and it's wearing you out." Mr. Hiscox junior took charge.

Bit of a growth spurt after that?

When Bertie took over, Hiscox had a staff often and £2m income from premiums. Since then it has grown into a FTSE 250 company that employs over 1000 people. Yesterday, Hiscox said premiums were down 0.6 per cent to £450.7m in the three months to April, but added that after two busy years of catastrophes and claims "it has been a relatively benign quarter". Which will give Bertie reason to relax as he works out his final year in the office. He will be 70 when he retires next year and says he is excited about a life of "less routine and the ability to go to Paris for lunch". Investors will be sad to say au revoir.

So what happens next?

Bertie will spend more time with his his sizeable art collection – he has a highly rated eye in the auction rooms – while his long-serving chief executive Bronek Masojada will continue running the business day to day. Masojada, a keen kite-surfer, since you ask, is a safe pair of hands, and last year accepted a pay freeze at £438,000 and no bonus.

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