Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Business

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.

Comments
Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

CLEARWATER — Elected officials have talked about relocating City Hall from the downtown bluff for a good 30 years. Now there’s a jolt of urgency to actually do it.Voters backed a referendum in November that essentially greenlighted the $55 million re...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Shrinking supply of Tampa Bay condos and townhomes drives up prices

Shrinking supply of Tampa Bay condos and townhomes drives up prices

Sales of condos and townhomes in the Tampa Bay area jumped 9.5 percent in March, hitting a median of $156,000. The price gain was prompted in part by a supply shortage, with sales down 7.5 percent amid a dwindling inventory. Statewide, sales also lag...
Published: 04/25/18
Against neighborhood and city staff wishes, Clearwater Council greenlights storage facility

Against neighborhood and city staff wishes, Clearwater Council greenlights storage facility

CLEARWATER — Skycrest residents showed up to City Hall recently and begged elected officials not to let a developer knock down an aging office building in their neighborhood and build a storage facility in its place.Planning and Development Director ...
Published: 04/25/18
Three artists picked to create art for St. Pete’s new pier

Three artists picked to create art for St. Pete’s new pier

ST. PETERSBURG — Pelicans will return to the pier in fanciful form.A California artist has been selected to create an enormous, red origami sculpture of a pelican that will serve as a metal perch for three more lifelike, but no less fanciful, imitati...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Career Q&A: Disillusioned with grind of telecommute

Career Q&A: Disillusioned with grind of telecommute

Q: I have become very disillusioned with my telecommuting job. I accepted this position about a year ago because I liked the idea of working from home. However, I now have so many assignments that I can barely keep up. I was recently given a huge pro...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Pinellas County commits $41.7 million to Blue Jays Stadium

Pinellas County commits $41.7 million to Blue Jays Stadium

DUNEDIN — The Pinellas County Commission pulled the final trigger Tuesday on dedicating $41.7 million in bed taxes for upgrades to the Toronto Blue Jays’ stadium and spring training facilities, a pledge that amounts to covering more than half of the ...
Published: 04/24/18
Florida’s small businesses need more skilled workers, survey says

Florida’s small businesses need more skilled workers, survey says

Florida small business owners say their top concern is a lack of skilled workers, according to a recent survey by the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Workforce quality has been a recurring issue for small businesses, according to previous surveys. In th...
Published: 04/24/18
Marriott CEO: Our three-hotel bet at Water Street Tampa reflects how Tampa is evolving

Marriott CEO: Our three-hotel bet at Water Street Tampa reflects how Tampa is evolving

TAMPA — The world’s biggest hotel company already has 29 properties in the Tampa Bay area, but its CEO says a plan to put more than 1,400 rooms in three Marriott-branded hotels within a few blocks of each other says something about how Tampa is evolv...
Published: 04/24/18
Study ranks Florida No. 8 for most aggressive drivers

Study ranks Florida No. 8 for most aggressive drivers

If you’ve ever complained about other motorists on the road, you may have been justified. The Sunshine State ranked No. 8 on GasBuddy.com’s list of states with the most aggressive drivers."Our findings indicate that states with densely populated citi...
Published: 04/24/18
First curbside delivery, now Amazon leaves packages with no one in the car

First curbside delivery, now Amazon leaves packages with no one in the car

Amazon is taking the growing curb-side delivery trend a step further — now shoppers don’t even have to be inside their cars to get their items.The online retailer announced Tuesday it has begun delivering packages to newer cars with OnStar service in...
Published: 04/24/18