Citizens Insurance: Moving in the right direction

When I took the reins at Citizens, I knew I was taking on a challenge. I’d been brought in, not to babysit, but to fix an organization facing serious internal and external challenges. I have made a career of doing this successfully time after time.

I cannot change what happened before my tenure at Citizens began. What I can do is make changes to dramatically improve this organization going forward. My goal is to make Citizens an industry and state model.

I therefore have devoted myself from day one to making changes to improve the organization’s efficiency, ethics and fiscal health.

One of the most pressing areas of concern was deficiencies in Citizens’ complaints, disciplinary and internal auditing procedures and capabilities. These weaknesses included insufficient policies, under-qualified staff and reporting and investigative procedures that did not align with industry best standards.

To address these issues, I immediately took the following steps:

• Made significant senior management changes in areas with the biggest problems, including appointing and empowering a new ethics officer. I eliminated the top executive overseeing the areas in which there had been problems, reassigning those responsibilities to four senior executives prepared to make across the board improvements.

• Recruited a top-notch head of human resources who reports directly to me. My first direction to him was to develop a strong and uniform set of disciplinary and severance policies, which will be presented to the Citizens Board of Directors in March.

• Worked with our chief of internal audit to restructure Citizens’ Office of Internal Audit (OIA) in accordance with corporate best practices. This newly empowered office now reports directly to Citizens’ Board, eliminating potential conflicts between management and internal investigations.

• Strengthened the OIA’s ability to identify fraud and misconduct by hiring three forensic auditors with extensive experience and proven dedication to the task of rooting out fraud. They include a forensic investigations manager from one of the nation’s top 40 certified public accounting firms; a highly decorated, former FBI special agent in charge of white collar investigations; and a former investigations and financial/operations audit manager for Florida-based EverBank

Like the governor and many others, I find the misdeeds and allegations of misconduct by Citizens employees both embarrassing and troubling. I therefore ordered a comprehensive review of all complaints and investigations handled by my predecessors and ordered that it be released publically. This was imperative to ensure transparency and make it clear that every Citizens employee will be held to the highest standards.

Let me be clear: Misbehaviors of the past will not be tolerated under my watch. I have ordered vital changes to ensure that all allegations are investigated and properly dealt with in a timely manner. These changes are already leading to greater responsiveness and a more positive and appropriate work environment.

Citizens has taken great efforts to tighten its belt financially as well. I immediately implemented tightened expense standards and required that I personally preapprove all out-of-state and international travel and costs. In March, Citizens will announce even stricter standards to better align ourselves with state expense and procurement guidelines.

We also have looked to outside experts for guidance. We have launched a top to bottom organizational review by KPMG to gain a better understanding of how we operate and determine what additional improvements are needed. My goal is to ensure that we operate at peak efficiency and are spending money wisely.

It is vital that we not lose focus of the many important strides Citizens has made to decrease exposure and protect our policyholders and all Florida taxpayers from the threat of assessments. Citizens recently concluded one of its most successful years of depopulation, returning nearly 300,000 policies to the private market and plans to improve on that success in 2013. Successes like these, coupled with ground-breaking private risk-transfer programs have led to a $2.7 billion reduction in potential assessments on all Florida policyholders for the 2013 storm season.

It is successes like these, made possible by the dedicated public servants who work on behalf of Citizens’ 1.3 million policyholders every day, that will help move Citizens in the right direction. I cannot undo the past, but I can and will make Citizens a model company for all Floridians.

Barry Gilway is president of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation.

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald



    Jeff Bauman: All I want is a normal day

    It is a weekend for working around the house. My fiancée, Erin, and I have the baby’s room to paint and some IKEA furniture to assemble. I roll out of bed early — 10:30 — and get into my wheelchair. Erin is already making coffee in the kitchen.



    More lax gun laws coming our way

    In December 1983, Middlesex County, N.J., discontinued a policy that allowed police officers to fire warning shots at fleeing or aggressive suspects. The county was the only one in the state of New Jersey, and one of the last in the country, to permit such firearm discharges, which are considered too potentially dangerous to third parties to allow law officers to use.

 <span class="cutline_leadin">REBELS</span>: Ivan Marquez, left, heads the FARC delegation to the peace talks with the Colombian government in Havana. Jesus Santrich of the FARC stands next to him.


    Myths and realities about the Colombian peace process

    Some opponents of the peace process between the government of Colombia and insurgents have been circulating false versions about the talks underway in Havana and unbelievable myths about its actual scope. We will clarify the main legends right now.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category