Some people think that it’s time to move to a different corner of the party when someone starts talking about insurance. They have not met Tomáš Trnka. He’ll insure anything.
Trnka is soft-spoken and witty, and freely admits that he really didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. He didn’t really have a path to follow, apart from an abiding interest in aviation.
“But I was not the,” he says, pausing for le mot juste, “technical type.”
He chose to try AAU in the early 1990s and became one of the earliest graduates. During his time as a student, he worked part-time for Citibank in HR. Following graduation, he did his compulsory civil service in facility management.
When it was time to find a career, he looked at his life to date: facilities and finance. As it turned out, he didn’t find a job; a job found him.
“Risk solutions is part of the insurance game. For the automotive segment, it’s an industry that’s shrinking year by year, due to the soft market, but especially the undercutting.”
In aviation, the players are often big multinational companies, and you, the broker, are under a lot of pressure to come up with good and fair figures.
“Your quote matters so much for a plane. Look, finance managers of international companies are tough, right? These aviation types. . . Well, they make the finance managers look fluffy by comparison.”
“Do your job, one hundred percent – because you never know what skills you’ll need later. Sometimes painful, never useless.”
It was pressure that he could largely live without. And there’s still plenty at stake in the automotive department. As department manager, he is responsible for over 30.000 vehicles. Aviation is still his interest, and it’s still a part of his work. But now, he is comfortable with the balance of an interesting triple-role: Tomáš Trnka, insurer of fleets, flight – and films.
“It was a bit crazy at the beginning, but I grew to like it. I have to be realistic – I walk in, and I ask, ‘What can I insure?’”
The question is more, what can you NOT insure? Everyone knows you can insure actors, hands, stunt doubles, vespa scooters, buildings – but also budgets, the film itself and even the weather.
“If the film is destroyed, you can lose millions upon millions of crowns. The same if the key crew is sick, or if bad weather postpones a shoot.”
He’s been involved with Czech productions (“Obsluhoval jsem anglického krále,” “Rafťáci”) as well as the numerous American films shot in Czech Republic (“Casino Royale,” for instance). He has even insured a well-known Hollywood couple (who must remain nameless). Such high-profile people can be “civil liabilities,” even when they’re only strolling about the Prague castle.
One of the more unlikely lessons he’s learned hasn’t anything to do with the facts or figures, but facade.
“It’s important that [movie producers] don’t perceive you as a Boring Insurance Man in a suit. So on the day I’ll go to meet them, I lose the tie and grab jeans and a t-shirt. That’s what they’re wearing anyway.”
Not, probably, an outfit you’d wear to meet the “aviation types.” Still, Trnka splits his time between moving things and moving pictures at Aon. It’s the same general process, but to hear him describe it, you think of yin and yang.
“There’s a science when you’re dealing with fleet insurance,” he explains, “versus this spontaneity of working with films.”
There’s something for a risk assessor to like on either side, though the real disadvantage of working in auto insurance is that “most people think they understand it.”
The reason that AAU was the right school at the right time was because of “the principles – the out-of- the-box, independent thinking, different ways to solve a problem.” It’s a good background for anyone, but particularly for someone in his profession.
He remembers a business law class he took with John H. Carey II, for whom AAU’s law faculty is named: “Carey talked about basic principles with universal applicability. The first lesson is, ‘Don’t ever assume.’ That’s a principle that’s paid off many, many times.”
Philosophical thought is important, even critical, he says, but you should never fail to see the practical side of a problem. This mantra is derived from the experiences – good and bad – he’s accumulated in school, work and life.
“Do your job, one hundred percent – because you never know what skills you’ll need later. Sometimes painful, never useless. But do it. Because when I tried to delegate what wasn’t interesting, it caught up with me. Success is being better. It comes only if you work hard.”
Publication date: May 04, 2014