New Citizens CEO discusses plan for Florida’s largest property insurer

Company needs to dismiss hundreds of thousands of policies

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The state’s largest property insurer has a new CEO.

The board for Citizens Property Insurance Corporation named Tim Cerio to the post.

It comes after the former CEO, Barry Gilway, announced his retirement after the last special legislative session.

Cerio is no stranger to Citizen’s. He spent the last two years acting as general counsel.

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Cerio takes the helm as new legislation takes effect, impacting the company.

With new legislation, it has become more difficult to qualify for Citizens, and over the next couple of years, hundreds of thousands of policy holders will be nudged back into the private market.

Cerio says his priority is making the transition as seamless as possible.

[INSIDER EXTRA: Hear more from Tim Cerio, the new CEO of Citizens]

“I think the biggest challenge is managing the growth in the policy count,” Cerio told News 6.

As Cerio steps into the role of CEO and executive director of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, his priority is crystal clear.

“Reaffirming the commitment to say, ‘We get it.’ We need to focus all our strategies on being that insurer of last resort,” Cerio said.

Citizens was designed to be the insurer of last resort, but over the past few years in Florida’s turbulent insurance market, Citizens has ballooned to the largest insurer in the state with about 1.17 million policies.

Cerio admits there is a lot less angst amongst lawmakers, and less liability on taxpayers, when the company is around 450,000 policies.

“It’s going to take 18 to 24 months to see significant improvement. It could take longer for us to get down to 450,” Cerio said.

Some of Citizens’ current policy holders tell News 6 they are feeling the pressure.

“Citizens is pushing back on me to use private coverage,” a viewer wrote to News 6 in an email. “They’re providing costs for other private coverages and making me have to agree or disagree each time.”

“We don’t want to do things that artificially hamper access if you’re otherwise qualified, or that artificially kick you out when you should be in,” Cerio said.

In December, Florida’s legislature passed Senate Bill 2A, which in part states that if a homeowner can find a policy within 20% of the price of their Citizens policy, they are no longer eligible for Citizens.

The same legislation also requires Citizens policy holders to get flood insurance if they live in a flood zone.

Cerio’s priority is making sure the legislation has the intended effect: de-populating Citizens.

“The message does seem to be clear from the Legislature and the governor,” Cerio said.

“We need to return to being the insurer of last resort, but if you are with Citizens and while you’re with Citizens, we’re going to take good care of you,” Cerio said.

Citizens also want to focus on enhancing customer service to their policy holders, Cerio said.

If you’re a Citizens customer, you might need to be looking at alternatives over the next few months, if only so you’re not caught off guard.

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About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning reporter Louis Bolden joined the News 6 team in September of 2001 and hasn't gotten a moment's rest since. Louis has been a General Assignment Reporter for News 6 and Weekend Morning Anchor. He joined the Special Projects/Investigative Unit in 2014.