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. The FHP trooper behind quota on speeding tickets will resign Sept. 5

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — A Florida Highway Patrol official's call for troopers to meet ticket quotas has cost him his job.

    Major Mark D. Welch, Troop Commander of Troop H, wrote an email asking his employees that he wants them to write two citations each hour. "This is not a quota," he wrote. His resignation is effective Sept. 5. [Florida Highway Patrol]
  2. Trump shuts down CEO advisory councils as main group acts to disband


    President Donald Trump's main council of top corporate leaders disbanded on Wednesday following the president's controversial remarks in which he equated white nationalist hate groups with the protesters opposing them. Soon after, the president announced on Twitter that he would end his executive councils, "rather than …

    President Donald Trump meets with Merck's chief executive, Kenneth Frazier, second from left, and other leaders of the pharmaceutical industry in the Roosevelt Room of the White House last January. On Wednesday, Trump's main council of top corporate leaders disbanded following the president's controversial remarks in which he equated white nationalist hate groups with the protesters opposing them.
[New York Times file photo]
  3. A long-awaited vision for Tampa's Westshore Marina District

    Real Estate

    TAMPA —Eleven years after plans to develop a waterfront tract on the Tampa side of the Gandy Bridge were first announced, a new rendering gives a hint of what Westshore Marina District ultimately will look like.

    Rendering of Marina Pointe, a condo project overlooking Tampa Bay as part of the Westshore Marina District. [Courtesy of Masterfile Corp.}
  4. Buddy Brew Coffee to open downtown Tampa location


    TAMPA — Buddy Brew Coffee plans to open a new location in downtown Tampa at Park Tower in early 2018. The specialty coffee craft roaster, which was founded in 2010, has five other locations throughout Tampa including the Oxford Exchange, Sarasota, Hyde Park Village and Terminal F inside the Tampa International …

    A cappuccino is displayed at Buddy Brew in Tampa in January 2017. [CHARLIE KAIJO | Times]
  5. Where to pig out for National Bacon Lovers Day

    Food & Dining

    That's right: Sunday is the national day devoted to all things bacon, National Bacon Lovers Day. Which, really, isn't too different from the other 364 days of the year. But here's a little roundup of some special places to celebrate everyone's favorite meat snack (seriously, even vegans have a grudging respect …

    A creme-filled doughnut topped with maple frosting and bacon at Dough on MacDill Avenue in Tampa.