Amlin’s Alex Hindson guides us through his life, loves, hopes and fears, by way of 18th century logistical planning and the joys of looking for effluent leaks in France

What are you thinking about right now?

How did I get myself into this situation? Enthusiasm probably.

What is your greatest fear?

Having the type of job that is the same every day. Groundhog day.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

Chairing a student union general meeting after the miners’ strike. Tempers were raised, the PA system failed and there was no way of controlling the meeting of 500 people. Where was my contingency plan?

What is your most treasured possession?

The Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George medal awarded to my father for his work in managing the construction of a major steel factory.

What makes you happy?

Playing fiendishly tactical board games with my children, ideally while holding a cold glass of white wine.

What makes you unhappy?

Bureaucracy, particularly of a short-sighted compliance type that gives risk management a really bad name.

Who is your hero?

The Duke of Marlborough, Britain’s greatest general. He lived through the reigns of five monarchs and led a coalition army against the French and Austrians at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. He marched an army from the Netherlands to Austria, which required not just military skills but also an understanding of logistics and Grand Alliance politics. He was far from perfect, but definitely unique.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken?

There are two answers to this: the risks I chose and the ones thrust upon me. One that was thrust upon me was during my first role at ICI. It involved commissioning a chemical plant that handled hydrofluoric acid – which if spilled on your skin will kill you by reacting with the calcium in your bones. One night shift, we realised we had a serious leak and there were only two of us there. I had to get into a protective suit and breathing apparatus and help the plant operator fix the leaking pump. A risk I chose to take was moving from a corporate risk management role to a financial services role in 2009. I put together a risk-mitigation plan and after 18 months things look positive. It’s important for risk professionals to know what it feels like to take and manage personal risk.

What is the worst job you’ve ever done?

My first work placement, at a French petrochemical plant, involved an eight-week survey looking for hydrocarbon leaks in the effluent system. Given my interest in the environment, the operators nicknamed me “grin de piss” (as in Greenpeace).

What is your greatest achievement?

At 28, managing a team of 35 operators, technicians and engineers through the commissioning of a multimillion-pound chemical plant. Most things that could go wrong did go wrong, but we generally had a recovery plan. It was challenging technically, managerially and personally. And as I only task-managed rather than line-managed most of the team, my influencing skills were also tested. About that time my daughter was born too, which contributed to the challenge.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned?

Don’t worry – the worst might happen, but worrying about it never helps. Either do something about it, or relax and prepare to react.

Tell us a secret?

I can only multiply and divide in French. I am half-French and went to the French Lycée in London and was taught in French until I was 14. It is hard to unlearn French mathematics. SR

Alex Hindson is head of group risk at Amlin and chairman of the Institute of Risk Management