Penny Speed meets... Rob Smale, claims director, Ageas


Being an insatiable socialite, Penny Black is always eager to probe the personalities behind the professional veneer of her industry friends. What better way to squeeze in and share as many intimate revelations as possible than her very own ‘speed meeting’ column? This week, it’s the turn of Ageas’s Rob Smale.

What was your first ever job — and were you any good at it?
After graduating in geology and mining engineering I became a trainee engineer at Abernant Colliery in South Wales. Not sure if I was any good, but I loved the camaraderie. I was 22 and allowed to blow stuff up – what’s not to like?

If an MP3 player really could only hold 3 tunes, what would you select for the ultimate soundtrack to your life?
The lovely Welsh hymn Gwahoddiad; Titanium by David Guetta and Lara’s Theme from the film Dr Zhivago

Who was your top teenage pin-up?
The famous/infamous ‘forgetful’ lady tennis player [Tennis Girl]

Favourite book of all time?
Catch‑22 by Joseph Heller

What would be your chosen superpower?
Renewable knees that can stand years of rugby and working underground

How would a typical school report about you read?
Robert should concentrate more on his studies and be less distracted. In case you hadn’t guessed by now, I am a Welshman through and through and was lucky enough to grow up on the Gower Peninsula, so I spent a lot of time gazing out the classroom window

My top tip for climbing the insurance career ladder is...
Don’t forget what it’s like to be a customer

What’s the most annoying thing people do in your office?
Something we all do is use meaningless jargon. I recently read Who Touched Base in My Thought Shower? by Steven Poole – a treasury of unbearable office jargon. Has anyone found the box so we can think outside it?

My last supper would comprise...
My wife’s spaghetti bolognese, bread, parmesan cheese, a bottle of Ripasso (Italian red) followed by affogato

Who has been the most influential person in your life to date?
I was fortunate to spend some time with a lady who had spent most of her 90-plus years living in the village in West Wales where I grew up. She had collected a wealth of experiences, anecdotes and wisdom and understood the power of a good story

If I wasn’t working in insurance I would probably be...
In the dark, several hundred feet below ground... but Margaret Thatcher and circumstances prevented that

Name your ideal dinner party guests (dead or alive) very briefly noting what they bring to the party
Dame Judi Dench – whenever I have seen her on TV she strikes me as wickedly funny, and has been at the top of her business for many years and met all sorts of interesting folk; Cate Blanchett for her beauty, intelligence, campaigning and dry wit; Bobby Robson – a storyteller, nice guy and a proud Geordie from my family’s favourite part of England, the North East (I believe he also had something to do with something called footy); and ex-F1 driver Jackie Stewart – another person with great stories to tell

Career high point to date?
Being part of the UK team that went to assist post-apartheid South Africa with reconstruction

If you could travel back in time, where would you go?
Easy one for a geologist – back to the age of the dinosaurs
Finish this sentence: Insurance is a great industry to work in because... When we get it right, we really help people in need

Would you like to be probed by Penny on one of her speed meets? Get in touch via Mark Sands

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