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The Warren Buffett CEO: Secrets from the Berkshire Hathaway Managers

Ajit Jain (born, 1973 in India) is a businessman who currently heads several reinsurance business for Berkshire Hathaway[1] and has been touted as a possible successor to Warren Buffett.[2]

Jain's potential rivals to head up Berkshire when Buffett departs are Joseph Brandon, who heads up Berkshire Hathaway's General Re Corp., whose offices in Stamford, Connecticut are about a mile away from Jain's Richard Santulli, who runs NetJets Inc., an operator of private jets and Tony Nicely, chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway's GEICO Corp.[3]

Current job

As of July 2006, Jain was overseeing about 30 employees at Berkshire Hathaway Reinsurance Group, located in the First Stamford Place office complex near downtown Stamford, Connecticut. That 30-employee group, according to an article by Bloomberg News reporter Rob Urban, "generated float, the pool of premiums insurers invest before they need to pay out claims, of $16.23 billion as of 2005. That was more than double the $6.69 billion from Berkshire's 20,417-employee GEICO, the fourth-largest U.S. car insurer, according to Berkshire's annual report."[3]

Jain's operations provide a substantial portion of Berkshire Hathaway's overall insurance group revenues:[3]

* In 2005: $3.96 billion out of a total of $22 billion in premium revenue from the group.
* 2004: $3.7 billion out of $21.1 billion.
* 2003: $4.4 billion out of $21.5 billion.

Close to Buffett

Jain working in Stamford, remains in close contact with Buffett, who said at a May 7, 2006 news conference, "I still do talk to him every day. That's how I get smarter." In a news conference held in May of 2005, he said: "There is nobody at Berkshire Hathaway that I would have more confidence in than Ajit." In letters Buffett has written accompanying Berkshire's reports to shareholders, he has consistently praised Jain:[3]

* In 2002: "I have known the details of almost every policy that Ajit has written since he came with us in 1986. ... His extraordinary discipline, of course, does not eliminate losses it does, however, prevent foolish losses. And that's the key: Just as is the case in investing, insurers produce outstanding long-term results primarily by avoiding dumb decisions, rather than by making brilliant ones."[4]
* In 2003: "It's impossible to overstate his value to Berkshire."
* In 2004: "Ajit's value to Berkshire is enormous."
* In 2005: Buffett called him "a extraordinary manager."
* Buffett also once said: "If you see him(Aji Jain) here(at Berkshire Hathaway's anuual stockholders meeting), be sure to bow".

Early life

Jain, whose family name comes from his religion, Jainism, was raised in India's coastal state of Orissa.

He graduated in 1972 from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur with a bachelor's degree in engineering. He didn't take his studies very seriously, according to Dutta. Instead, they spent hours talking about economics, sociology and the Vietnam War, often debating through the night. Vijay Trehan, another classmate, described Jain and Dutta as "class clowns in our mechanical engineering class." But considering their later careers, Trehan said, "The lesson has to be that 'not taking life too seriously' is definitely the way to go."[3]

Career

Jain worked for IBM in India from 1973 to 1976, then moved to the United States, where he earned an MBA from Harvard University in 1978.

He joined McKinsey & Co., but returned to India in the early 1980s. After a monthlong courtship, he married a woman chosen by his parents. Then he went back to the United States to work for McKinsey. According to Robert P. Miles' book The Warren Buffett CEO: Secrets from the Berkshire Hathaway Managers Jain said he would not have returned to America, but his wife wanted to move there.

In 1986 he left McKinsey to work on insurance operations for Buffett. At the time, he said he knew little about the insurance business.[3]

Further reading

* Miles, Robert P., "The Warren Buffett CEO: Secrets from the Berkshire Hathaway Managers," John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2003.

Trivia

Ajit Jain attended the Indian Institute of Technology around the same time as Prem Watsa. Watsa is the head of Fairfax Financial Holdings. Jain and Watsa were both at different campuses at IIT and know each other from regular insurance industry meetings.


 

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