Make us your home page

Citizens Property Insurance execs push for 'kinder, gentler' and smaller company

In less than two years, Citizens Property Insurance has dropped its policy count by a half-million, pushing the state-run insurer of last resort below 1 million policies for the first time since 2006.

Barry Gilway, Citizens president and chief executive, isn't satisfied.

He wants to get rid of another 300,000 policies over the next three years, by pushing more consumers back into private coverage and by keeping them out of Citizens in the first place through a new clearinghouse. The clearinghouse forces insurance agents to shop around new policies instead of putting them into Citizens by rote.

The smaller Citizens gets, the less risk there is of everyone in the state getting assessed to pay claims from a storm that Citizens can't handle. Possible assessments from a 1-in-100 year storm have already been cut from nearly $12 billion to $3.8 billion, Gilway said.

While shrinking, the insurer is simultaneously trying to improve its image, damaged by a rigorous years-long campaign of cutting coverage, raising rates and challenging customer discounts.

"We want to be a kinder, gentler Citizens with the consumer," said Citizens board chairman Chris Gardner, who joined Gilway in a visit with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board Tuesday.

Gilway was hired to overhaul Citizens two years ago. Spurred by negative press coverage over executive spending and travel, he established new ethics and spending policies and hired an internal inspector general this year.

Another consumer-friendly initiative: Citizens is providing one of the few options to homeowners unable to find sinkhole coverage. With standard homeowners policies now only covering catastrophic ground collapse, Citizens offers an endorsement on its policies for sinkhole coverage to homes that pass inspections.

For the sinkhole alley counties of Pasco and Hernando, that's particularly important. The average Citizens sinkhole premium is $2,194 in Pasco and $2,024 in Hernando, far more than anywhere else in the state but still a bargain compared with the risk, Gilway said.

After battling sinkhole attorneys for years, Citizens has shifted strategies toward settling. For the first time, Gilway said, Citizens is agreeing to accept decisions coming out of arbitration, to pay for fixes on any home that suffers subsequent damage after an engineer-approved repair, and to let homeowners keep their right to sue later.

Among other topics, Gilway:

• predicted more private carriers will offer cheaper flood insurance, giving options to rate hikes being imposed by the National Flood Insurance Program.

• estimated about 70 percent of property owners will be covered by a Florida-based private insurer by the end of the year, up from less than a third four years ago.

Homeowners have fretted about being pushed to untested Florida carriers who came into existence after the storms of 2004-05. Gilway expressed confidence in the financial strength of the companies, which are approved by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. But he also acknowledged concern about how some of the fledgling insurers will handle the next major hurricane.

"I do worry about it," he said.

Citizens Property Insurance execs push for 'kinder, gentler' and smaller company 02/18/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 10:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa's Walter Investment Management restructuring, could file for bankruptcy


    TAMPA — Tampa-based Walter Investment Management Corp. is restructuring to cut down some of the mortgage firm's $700 million debt, Walter announced Friday night. The firm, according to its investor relations page, focuses on subprime and "other credit-challenged" mortgages.

    Walter Investment Management is restructuring to reduce its $700 million debt, the company announced late Friday. Pictured is Anthony Renzi. CEO. | [Courtesy of LinkedIn]
  2. Carrollwood fitness center employs scientific protocol to help clients


    In 2005, Al Roach and Virginia Phillips, husband and wife, opened 20 Minutes to Fitness in Lakewood Ranch, and last month they opened the doors to their new location in Carrollwood.

    Preston Fisher, a personal fitness coach at 20 Minutes To Fitness, stands with an iPad while general manager/owner Angela Begin conducts an equipment demonstration. The iPad is used to track each client's information and progress. I also included one shot of just the equipment. The center recently opened in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  3. Olive Tree branches out to Wesley Chapel


    WESLEY CHAPEL — When it came time to open a second location of The Olive Tree, owners John and Donna Woelfel, decided that Wesley Chapel was the perfect place.

    The Olive Tree expands its offerings of "ultra premium?€ extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) to a second location in Wesley Chapel. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  4. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  5. New York town approves Legoland proposal


    GOSHEN, N.Y. — New York is one step closer to a Lego dreamland. Goshen, a small town about fifty miles northwest of the Big Apple, has approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park.

    A small New York town, Goshen approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven. [Times file  photo]