John C. “Jack” Roche, EVP, The Hanover Insurance Group
Tell me a little about your business.
The Hanover has transformed itself over the past decade into a strong national carrier with a local approach and today writes more than $5 billion in premiums a year. We have 5,500 employees and more than 50 local branch offices, including about 800 employees in London at Chaucer, a Lloyd’s syndicate.
You’ve been in the business for 27 years. What’s kept you in?
There are very few businesses that are truly great people businesses. This is a complicated, sophisticated business that requires you to have great interpersonal skills and strong business and technical skills.
Do you have a favorite insurance joke?
This is an oldie, but a goody. An actuary, an underwriter, and a producer are riding in a car. The producer has his foot on the gas, the underwriter has his foot on the brake, and the actuary is looking out the back window telling them where to go.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Vernon, Connecticut, outside Hartford. It’s a fairly good-size town, about 30,000 people. Many of the folks work for insurance companies in the area.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I have a wife and four kids, so I spend a fair amount of time going to sports events and games. I also golf and ski. But taxi driver is my real secondary role. My wife’s passion is tennis, and my passion is golf. I probably play more tennis than I should, given my skill level.
Does your wife play more golf than she should?
Probably, but I like to think her compromise is easier than mine.
You and your wife, Grace, are also active in a nonprofit organization called Tenacity. What’s that about?
Tenacity provides tennis lessons and academic support for underprivileged kids, using tennis as an incentive to get them to spend more time on academics. The folks at Tenacity teach the kids how to play tennis but also sit with them and read books and help them with their homework.
What’s your favorite place to visit?
For many years we’ve enjoyed the Jersey Shore. Our regular place is in Lavallette. My wife’s family grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey. We used that as a place where everybody got together—up until 2012, when the boardwalk was blown away. We went to the Outer Banks last summer.
How did Lavallette fare with Hurricane Sandy?
Lavallette, like many communities on the shore, was hit very hard. The particular house we rent every year did pretty well.
Will you be back in Lavallette next year?
Oh, yes. I think those plans are already being made.
Do you do a lot of reading?
Yes, more business than pleasure. The last book I read was The $10 Trillion Prize: Captivating the Newly Affluent in China and India. The basic premise is that the economies of China and India are creating a $10 trillion opportunity as the middle class grows.
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you’re a Red Sox fan.
If I weren’t, I’d say I was. The funny thing is, I was supposed to go to game seven of the World Series [which the Red Sox won in six games]. My big dilemma watching game six was whether to root for my team to lose. So I have in my possession a ticket to game seven that’s never going to be used.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I’m a pretty big country music fan. I was a fan even before it became fashionable.
Who are your favorites?
Probably the Zac Brown band, and I just saw Kenny Chesney at the Country Summerfest. I also went to a Rascal Flatts concert recently. I didn’t appreciate them until I saw them in concert.
Who was your most influential business mentor?
I was fortunate enough to work with and for Marita Zuraitis for 18 years, including the last seven here at The Hanover. She was instrumental in my development as a leader and recruited me to “The Journey” that CEO Fred Eppinger built at The Hanover. I am most grateful for the opportunities that both Marita and Fred have presented me.
How would the people you work with describe your management style?
One thing I hope people see is that I have real passion for leadership development. I’ve helped develop leadership programs here at The Hanover and worked hard to make sure people receive leadership training.
What have you learned that you could pass on to others?
You have to develop your own level of authenticity in your leadership style. A lot of times, that requires a certain level of humility that is not highly common in business today.
What gives you your leader’s edge in this industry?
Probably my communication skills. I work hard at being articulate and transparent about what we’re trying to accomplish and at listening to what our partners want and need. Communicating needs to be a two-way process that benefits all of the parties involved.
The Roche File
Hometown: Hopkinton, Mass. (“Most famously known as the start of the Boston Marathon.”)
Family: Wife, Grace (married 24 years). Children: Brendan, 19; Katie, 17; Elizabeth, 15; Michael, 13.
Wheels: Mercedes e350