Lifestyle Personal Lines the November 2013 issue

Jonathan Beach, Founder and Chairman, Beach & Associates

I discovered all the guys you grew up with relatively late in life—Faulkner, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway—what I would call classic American literature.
By Chris Hann Posted on October 30, 2013
Tell me a little about your business.
We are property-casualty reinsurance brokers, with offices in New York, London, Bermuda, Sydney and Toronto, although I am based in Toronto. Our typical client is a U.S. or London-based global specialty lines insurance company. We’re entirely privately owned by principals of the company.

I’m going to guess that’s not a Canadian accent you’re speaking with.
I’m originally from London.

Do you still get back to London?
Yes, I have a home there as well as here in Toronto. I get to London frequently.

What was it like where you grew up?
I grew up in the Warwickshire countryside, near Stratford on Avon—Shakespeare country. I was educated in a monastery in southern England by Benedictine monks, which was an extremely harsh, almost Dickensian existence. Stories of my education would make most people’s skin crawl today.

What about your kids?
My children were never going to go to a boarding school. To me it was absolutely the most appalling experience.

How did you get into the insurance business?
I got into the insurance business in 1975—that dates me, doesn’t it? A friend of mine introduced me to Lloyd’s of London. I decided my personality fitted the broker world more than the underwriting world.

What are your favorite places to travel for work?
I really like New York, London, Sydney, although I don’t tend to see much of them. It’s pretty nice, when you’re based in Toronto, to go to Miami in February.

How long have you been in Canada?
Since 1985. When I went to work, I went to work in London. Making the transition to London was a bigger deal than moving from London to Toronto. I honestly don’t feel at all different, whether I’m in Toronto, New York, Sydney or London. I know that’s odd, but I feel equally at home in all four cities.

What’s your perfect weekend look like?
I love to kayak anywhere in the world. I kayak on Lake Ontario, here in Canada, all year long. I also love to ski, both downhill and cross-country. I like biking. And I like tennis. And I am an avid golfer. I am a big outdoorsy type, which is why Canada suits me enormously. I love exercise of any description. Despite my love of the cities, I’m really a country person.

Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
Every year I tend to go to the Caribbean for a week in March, by which time I’ve had enough of the Canadian winter. My favorites are the British Virgin Islands and the Grenadines.

How about a favorite author?
I’m an avid reader. I’m reading The Last Lion, about Winston Churchill, by William Manchester. I do love the classics. When I came to North America, I discovered American literature. The only American author anybody in England reads is Henry James. I discovered all the guys you grew up with relatively late in life—Faulkner, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway—what I would call classic American literature.

Who was your most influential business mentor?
The first 10 years of my business life, the chairman of my firm had an enormous influence, a chap by the name of Neil Mills at Sedgwick, one of the most prominent business insurance broking firms. I looked up to him tremendously because he had built the firm to a very substantial extent.

How would your colleagues describe your management style?
I think people would say I’m hard working and that I’m very deal oriented. I would like to think that I listen and I’m very team oriented.

If you could change the industry, what would you do?
It’s time for reinsurance intermediaries to be appropriately compensated for their services. Reinsurance brokers used to merely quote and place reinsurance structures requested by the client. Now they provide advice on how to protect the P&L versus the balance sheet, how to maximize return on capital via reinsurance, how to maximize the company’s BCAR rating, how to calculate the company’s exposure to various types of disaster, what to consider from an enterprise risk management standpoint, and so forth. The reinsurance intermediary is more and more becoming a professional advisor and should be recognized as such.

What gives you your leader’s edge in this industry?
I believe absolutely in devotion to excellence. I want our firm to be the best in the business, the most professional in the business, with high degrees of integrity and professionalism. That isn’t lightly said. I want our firm to become a more significant player in our industry, using those as sort of our guiding principles.

The Beach File

Age: 60
Hometown: Oakville, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto
Family: Wife, Lynn (married 31 years); daughters Katie, 29 (assistant vice president of broking for Beach and Associates in Toronto), and Sarah, 27 (works for Arch Insurance in London)
Last Book Read: A new translation by Stephen Mitchell of The Iliad (“I would love to be able to read the book in its original Greek.”)
Wheels: Aston Martin vintage roadster and a Porsche Panamera


Chris Hann Associate Editor Read More

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