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Better know a CEO: Jon Starkey

After serving almost nine years as general manager of AIG in Russia, he transferred to Budapest to his current appointment as general manager of Chartis Europe SA branch office in Hungary.

Starkey was born in 1964 in West Yorkshire, England. He attended Bradford Grammar School and graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge University with a degree in Classics and Modern Languages in 1988.

He began his insurance career in 1988 with Willis Wrightson Limited Insurance brokers in the UK as part of their graduate program.

In September 1991 he joined Sedgwick Energy Ltd in London, working on offshore and onshore energy risks in the former Soviet Union, China and Vietnam. In November 1993 he was appointed general manager of Sedgwick Ltd in Kazakhstan responsible for setting up, developing and running this new operation.

In February 1998 Starkey joined AIG to establish its joint venture insurance company in Kazakhstan and to oversee all of AIG’s Central Asia and Caucasus operations. In February 2002 he was appointed vice-chairman/general manager of AIG Russia. After serving almost nine years as general manager in Russia, he transferred to Budapest to his current appointment as general manager of Chartis Europe SA branch office in Hungary.

Starkey is married with two daughters. He is a qualified associate of the Chartered Insurance Institute (A.C.I.I.), a chartered insurer. Apart from his native English, he speaks Russian.

Which talent would you most like to have?
I would love to be able to play clarinet in a swing or jazz band.

What is the trait you most disapprove of in others?
Pursuing self-interest rather than doing the right thing.

What historical person do you most identify with?
I think I have a somewhat adventurous and pioneering aspect to my character somewhere inside, so I would identify with and admire famous explorers like Cook, Marco Polo, Columbus, Scott, Amundsen, or adventurers and pioneers like Sir Edmund Hillary, the Wright Brothers, and more recently, astronauts like Gagarin and Armstrong.

Who is your favorite hero in fiction?
This one is easy. My favorite switch-off and relax reading is the series of detective novels by Robert B Parker where the hero is the likeable but tough crime-fighter Spenser.

What kind of job did you dream of when you were a child?
The usual things, I suppose – firefighter, racing driver, pilot.

What is your greatest regret?
So far, I am very happy with the path my life is leading, so no major regrets. There is still time to act if that feeling of regret begins to appear for any reason!

What is your greatest fear?
Minor fears – spiders or any kind of creepy-crawlies; needles and blood; I suffer a little bit with vertigo. Major fears – big issues like global terrorism, climate change, natural disasters (I once experienced an earthquake firsthand in Central Asia and they are very scary).

What makes you sad?
Losing a close friend or relative.

When and where were you the happiest?
I particularly enjoyed my four years at university and my time spent in Central Asia.

What was the most extravagant thing you’ve done in your life?
Buying two timeshares in Portugal, and I have a small weakness for Alfa Romeo and good quality watches.

Which word do you tend to overuse?
I haven’t noticed any in particular – need to ask my wife or colleagues.

What is your favorite Hungarian dish?
Recently I discovered rétes – a Hungarian strudel – but I prefer savory ones with vegetables, not sweet desserts.

What is your favorite Hungarian word?

What is the weirdest thing you have experienced in Hungary?
During the first five months nothing really wacky has happened. Compared to Moscow, for example, lifestyle and behavior in Budapest is much more akin to my home country (UK). We feel very comfortable and welcome here in Hungary. We speak foreign languages but Hungarian is a bit weird and is going to be a tough nut to crack.

What does your dream dinner party look like (occasion, venue, guests, menu, music or whatever is important to you)?
Any occasion, any location and setting, any cuisine – so long as my wife and I are the only participants and we can continue to find some small openings for some quality time together.

What activities help you to cope with stress?
Helping with daughter’s homework; watching British comedies from the 70s and 80s; fulfilling our two young daughters’ busy social schedule.

Which Hungarian habit did you get accustomed to most easily?
I have always been an early bird so adjusting to the early start/early finish of the working day wasn’t a challenge.

What is your dream to live to see?
At some point when the timing is right with family obligations and career, I would like to take a three or four-month trip to explore Australia and New Zealand.

What is your favorite gadget?
I would happily give up my Blackberry, iPod, Swiss army knife and other things. On my office wall I have a favorite clock obtained in Russia – a genuine submarine “Red October” brass-encased timepiece with a large key that needs manual winding every five days. This stays with me.

If you won €1 million, what would you do with the money?
It would be enough to stop working in the insurance industry and I definitely would. It would accelerate our plan to ensure the good education and futures of our children, the welfare of our parents and siblings, and retire early. We dream of owning a small lochside country hotel in Scotland or a villa in Italy and gently running the business. (Patricia Fischer)