New Florida Citizens CEO Ready for Most Challenging Job of His Career

Posted by on Jul 3, 2012 | 0 comments


 NU Online News Service, June 29, 2:51 p.m. EDT

While insurance executives typically do all they can to grow their companies, Barry Gilway was hired to do a different kind of job as the new president and chief executive officer of Florida Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

Gilway will seek to reduce the size of what is meant to be the state’s last-resort insurer.

Gilway, most recently CEO of Mattei Insurance Services, started his job at Citizens on June 18—just days after the Citizens board voted to hire him—but he says he can already recognize the “tremendous opportunity” for private insurers to depopulate Citizens.

“I think there are definitely viable, profitable policies to be had,” he tells PC360. He adds that he has meetings scheduled with three or four potential “take-out” companies.

Depopulation programs meant, to reduce the exposure at the state-run insurer, have been successful in the past, according to a presentation Gilway has already given to the state’s Financial Services Commission.

Domestic start-ups, approved by regulators as take-out companies, were formed in 2006 and 2007, and essentially cherry-picked Citizens’ book of business.

It worked to reduce Citizens’ policy count from about 1.3 million in 2007 to a low of just over 1 million in 2009. Since then, the policy count has risen and Citizens has far exceeded its purpose as a last resort insurer to become the largest writer of property insurance in Florida. At the end of 2012’s first quarter, the policy count has risen to over $1.4 million.

Therein lies a huge danger, creating another even more difficult problem for Gilway to solve. Citizens currently competes with the private market because its rates—which were frozen by law for several years—are not actuarially sound, even after lawmakers approved a glide-path for Citizens to begin raising rates.

With the ability to assess policyholders should a shortfall occur, the wallets ofFlorida’s residents are at risk.

“I’ve got the commitment of Florida’s leaders to change this, but it will take time; it’s a delicate balancing act,” Gilway says. “The ultimate objective is to [at least] get on equal footing with private carriers.”

Right now, though it varies by county, Citizens’ coastal account is about 45 percent inadequate and the personal lines account is 25 percent inadequate, he says.

“Any increases must be appropriate for customers,” Gilways say. “Increases can really affect a lot of people—some more than others.”

But the 66-year-old, 42-year insurance industry professional who has held positions such as president and CEO of Zurich North America Canada and CEO of Maryland Casualty Group says he is up to the task.

“I find it a fascinating challenging—more challenging than any position I’ve held in the past,” he says. “What a better way to go out. What a way to make a contribution.”

Gilway says he will immediately focus on the aspects of his job under his control. A survey is being done to determine whether customers understand the assessment mechanism of Citizens.

“We want to be very, very clear with them,” Gilway explains. “We need to do a good job letting customers know the difference with a strong education program.”

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