At the helm guiding Tokio Marine Highland through an exciting time in its development, Blandford joined the company in 2004 as a board member, took on an operating role in 2011 and assumed the CEO position in 2018.
Characterising his role as assembling the best team possible and overseeing Tokio Marine Highland’s overall performance, Blandford emphasises that achieving the dual objectives of digital transformation and “to be a good company” (the official Tokio Marine philosophy) remain his top priorities. “I saw [at Tokio Marine Highland] the opportunity to preserve a very strong entrepreneurial culture, but one that is backed by the strength and resources not only of Tokio Marine Kiln but also the broader Tokio Marine Group. This has been the most rewarding challenge of my career so far,” he says.
Previously involved in other aspects of finance prior to his present appointment, including roles at Goldman Sachs, Frontenac, and CCCC Growth Fund, Blandford states that this background gives him a unique perspective in the insurance industry when it comes to market analysis: “The principles of business model evaluation are the same. It’s helpful to understand that investments need to lead to both short-term and long-term growth, as well as how to dissect an industry and the competitive forces that will shape the next three to five-year cycle. I've never written an insurance policy, but insurance investing and strategy have been focal points in my career for the last 20 years.” This experience has proven particularly invaluable over the last 18 months when a taxing blend of shifting customer expectations and COVID-19-related market disruption conspired to change the entire insurance sector.
When he considers what the hallmarks of great leadership are, Blandford is humble and insists that even he is ‘still learning’. “I think the bedrock of being successful in leadership revolves around knowing that listening is more important than talking, being willing to change your own view, always learning new skills, and investing in your network. Also, transparency fosters trust, so be open and be consistent. Trust is built up over the years and can be lost in moments.”
He compliments the entire Tokio Marine Highland workforce, which has, despite the difficulties of 2020, given him so many reasons to celebrate. “It's just such a privilege to have the opportunity to work with such passionate people. I do miss the in-person interaction that we've lost since the pandemic, but I feel that 2020 was the year that we really came together as a family.”
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