Citizens’ Scott Wallace to step down in April

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Scott Wallace will step down this spring as CEO of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. the state-backed company that is now the largest property insurer in the state, reports Michael Peltier of the News Service of Florida.

Wallace, who has spent six years at Citizens’ helm, gave no reason for his decision to quit effective April 6. Instead, in a statement released by the insurer, he highlighted the company’s improved solvency and ability to pay claims over the past several years as it increasingly is called upon to insure the state’s most hurricane-prone property and now handles about 1.5 million policies.

“I am extremely proud of the achievements made over the last several years,” Wallace said in his resignation letter, to Citizen’s Chairman Carlos Lacasa, dated Jan. 6. “We now have a professional organization that is sustainable and scalable to address the needs of Citizens policyholders and the Florida market place.”

During his tenure, Citizens’ surplus has grown to over $5.5 billion and total claims paying capacity (including surplus, pre-event financing, Florida Hurricane Cat Fund and private reinsurance) is now nearly $17 billion.

Despite such growth, the insurer would still be unable to cover a 100-year storm and Citizens policyholders would have to pay for it. An average policyholder would be assessed about $1,100 in the event of a major hurricane, which many homeowners cannot afford to pay. If Citizens policyholders can’t cover it, an assessment would be levied on all the state’s insurance policyholders.

Wallace has found himself on the hot seat as lawmakers and industry representatives blasted Citizens in the past for poor customer service. And late last year, state Sen. Mike Fasano suggested Wallace could come before lawmakers to explain certain coverage changes by the insurer.

The company has been adding about 30,000 policies a month, despite efforts to increase the roll of private companies in the state’s market. Still, the company’s rates have been below those charged by private insurers, and since January 2010, the number of non-coastal property policies has risen by 63 percent.

Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, last year called the insurance company “one sick puppy.”

In November, Gov. Rick Scott called on Wallace and the board to come up with a slate of legislative initiatives to change the momentum.

In a notice Monday, Lacasa said Wallace has shepherded in a number of innovations and improved performance at the agency during difficult times.

“Scott has led the company through a complex ramp up of the infrastructure needed for Citizens to provide the services and possess the claims payment ability that is so essential to our state’s housing industry,” Lacasa said in a statement. “His talents will be sorely missed.” Lacasa said.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.