By CYRIL TUOHY, managing editor of Risk & Insurance®
His mother is a schoolteacher, his father an engineer, and his sister a business analyst in the same company as her father.
So what possessed Jim D'Onofrio, the newly appointed head of reinsurance operations for Endurance Reinsurance Corp. of America, to join the ranks of the insurance business?
In truth, perhaps, it is because D'Onofrio is all of these: teacher, engineer and business analyst. Most of all, this small family from Merrick, N.Y., has respect--respect for tradition, for family, for integrity.
As head of reinsurance operations for Endurance's U.S. reinsurance unit, D'Onofrio will have to call on those skills as he signs off on the deals presented by the company's underwriters and managers.
With about 100 employees, Endurance Reinsurance Corp. of America is a relatively small subsidiary of the larger 700-person Endurance Specialty Holdings Ltd. People will be watching him.
"I've always been partial to small schools and small companies," he said.
"In the reinsurance community, you don't know everybody but you know of everybody, so there's a very high level of accountability. It entails a much higher level of integrity, or respect, and that's always been very, very important to me," he said.
Depending on how you see it, D'Onofrio may be blessed or cursed. He went to the same high school as Ken LeStrange, chairman and CEO of Endurance Specialty Holdings Ltd.
D'Onofrio started from the "first floor or the second floor," when LeStrange and Steve Carlson, founding partners of the company, first launched the firm with $1.2 billion in capital in a market suffering from the aftershocks of the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
D'Onofrio is going to have to deliver for LeStrange, shareholders and customers, if nothing else on the grounds that D'Onofrio will not want to disappoint a high school alumnus revered within reinsurance circles.
"Great opportunities do not come around as often as you think, and you have to take advantage of them when they present themselves," says the Yale University graduate, wizened to the ways of the workplace.
Reinsurance is a small world, remember, and if D'Onofio comes up short, everyone around him will know about it. And there's the code of honor and integrity D'Onofrio lives by, which he doesn't intend to break.
"I remember the first time I met Ken LeStrange when we were still in temporary space up in Tarrytown (N.Y.)," he said. "There might have been 20 employees at ERCA at the time. The whole company was just over a year old, and I was amazed at how quickly a strong culture had been instilled."
Those were the days when every employee could see the nascent company's core principles posted on the wall because there were fewer than two dozen employees all huddled in the same space.
"I think that speaks highly of the character of the company as a whole and the people who work at Endurance," he added.
Now, nearly seven years after joining ECRA in December 2002, and two decades after starting in the insurance business, D'Onofrio peers down from his perch on the 18th and 19th floors of a steel-and-glass high-rise in Midtown Manhattan at the hustle and bustle below.
And still, the core vision of respect and integrity on which the company--and his family--was founded remains.
September 1, 2009
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