Lifestyle Personal Lines the September 2013 issue

John Murray, President & CEO, Rose & Kiernan

I play bad guitar. A lot of that ’70s era—Marshall Tucker, Charlie Daniels, Bob Seeger. My dogs tolerate it.
By Chris Hann
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Schoharie, New York, a town that doesn’t even have a stoplight. It’s a farming community about 50 miles west of Albany.

I understand you played Division I college basketball.
I played at Siena College in the late 1970s. I’m 6 feet 6. I was a slow, gravity challenged, forward/center. I had the dubious distinction of being the only captain in the history of Siena College who didn’t start.

How’d you become captain?
The coaches chose the captains. I think I had a good work ethic. I probably led the world in fouls. I’d get loose balls.

Sounds like fun.
I got a tremendous education at Siena. I learned how to meet people, learned how to speak to the media, learned how to dress. The first time I ever got on an airplane was for college athletics. We took an Allegheny Airlines flight from Albany to Buffalo to play Niagara and Canisius.

Are you still a college basketball fan?
I’m a Big East fan. Every spring we go to the Final Four.

And you’re now a trustee at Siena.
I’m the vice chairman of the board. I chaired the athletic committee for 10 years and now chair our Strategic Planning. It’s a great school. The Franciscans are great people with a real concern with making this world a better place.

Tell me a little about your business.
We have 200 employees in 11 offices in four states, and we have $40 million in revenue. About 45% of our business is property casualty, 40% benefits, about 10% personal lines, and 5% miscellaneous.

How did you get into the business?
I was a year out of college. I had a friend doing real well as a direct writer for Wausau Insurance. They were looking for somebody to be a trainee in sales. I was making $11,000 working for the state of New York. My friend was making $40,000, which sounded like a heck of a lot of money. The sales manager was a terrific person, one of these guys who would do anything to help you.

What’s kept you in the business?
I love the people aspect of it. I like the problem-solving aspect of it. I like the community involvement of it. The insurance industry is very embedded in the community.

You and your firm are very involved in local charitable groups.
Our firm’s 200 employees sit on 70 different boards for nonprofits. We want people to be involved. That, we hope, is part of our corporate DNA.

What does your perfect weekend look like?
I like to play golf. I fish. I have a little fishing boat. We’re right off the Hudson River. In the spring, the stripers run heavy and hard. We chase them for a two-week window. My older son plays golf with me. The middle son fishes. My daughter is up for just about anything. We own a little farm, a 115-acre farm, with a friend of mine. It’s a beautiful piece of property—85 acres of pastures, 30 acres of woods. It’s just a very peaceful place to go. It’s bordered by 3,000 acres of state forest.

What inspired you to buy a farm?
It was attractively priced. I always wanted to have an interest in a farm. My first job was on a farm, as a ninth grader. When you work for a farm, you work. I was loading hay bales onto hay wagons and putting them in barns. It was a good place to develop very good work habits.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I play bad guitar. A lot of that ’70s era—Marshall Tucker, Charlie Daniels, Bob Seger, some of the easier stuff. I have a room at home I can lock myself into. My two dogs seem to tolerate it, but they’re about the only audience I’ve ever played for.

What have you learned that you like to pass on to others?
How you’re able to communicate with people will have a tremendous impact on how successful you’re going to be in this business.

What gives you your leader’s edge in this industry?
I think it’s a recognition of how well you surround yourself is how successful you’ll be. It takes a team of people to be successful in an organization.

The Murray File

Age: 56
Hometown: Troy, New York
Family: wife, Kelly (married 27 years); sons Jack, 23, and Mike, 21; daughter Mary Kate, 17
Last Book Read: Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, by Robert Massie
Wheels: Ford F-150 pickup


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