He waited until the Florida Legislature had passed long-sought reforms, but now Citizens Property Insurance Corp. CEO Barry Gilway is ready to retire after almost 11 years at the helm.
Gilway announced at the Citizens Board of Governors meeting on Thursday, Dec. 21 that he would step down some time before the 2023 regular session of the Legislature begins in March. The board quickly agreed to pay Gilway up to $650,000 over the next few years to keep him engaged as an adviser to the state-backed insurer that has become the largest property insurance carrier in the state.
The board also named Tim Cerio, the corporation’s general counsel, as interim CEO, to take the reins when Gilway departs. The board will eventually name a permanent leader, who must be confirmed by the Florida Senate.
The nine-member board was full of accolades for Gilway, who has managed the quasi-public company through one of the most distressed insurance markets and an era that saw explosive if unintended growth for the 20-year-old corporation, which now has more than 1.1 million policyholders.
“It was Barry Gilway’s leadership and thought leadership that guided the Legislature towards really making some changes long-term to help stabilize the Florida property marketplace,” said board member Charlie Lydecker, who called Gilway “a hell of a leader” through tough times.
Chairman Carlos Beruff praised Gilway’s “intelligence and tenacity” in guiding Citizens and in relentlessly working for reforms to the system for the past decade.
“With the team he’s left behind, we all sleep pretty well at night,” Beruff added.
Gilway, who has been in the insurance business for 52 years, has repeatedly sounded the alarm about Florida’s imploding property insurance market in recent years. At Citizens board meetings and at legislative hearings and in interviews with the news media, Gilway frequently highlighted other insurers’ financial troubles and soaring litigation expenses.
At the meeting today, he suggested that the hard work paid off when the Legislature’s December special session addressed the key reforms, including limits on claims litigation and attorney fees; a flood insurance requirement for Citizens’ policyholders; and a state-backed reinsurance plan.
“What was accomplished this month at the legislative session will absolutely have a lasting impact on Citizens and Florida,” Gilway said. “It’s a huge success for Citizens.”
He praised the Citizens’ staff and said he was leaving the corporation in the hands of a very experienced “dream team.”
Gilway was well-known throughout the North American insurance industry before he became Citizens CEO in 2012, having led Zurich Canada, Zurich North America, Maryland Casualty Companies and Crum and Forster, according to his biography on the Citizens website.
He began his insurance career after college and after two years of military service, in regional management with the Insurance Company of North America and with W.R. Berkley Corp. In the 1990s, Gilway was named president of Maryland Casualty commercial lines. He retired from Zurich in 2006 and worked as a consultant and was later made CEO of Mattei Insurance Services.
He earned his bachelor of science degree from Akron University.
This article was originally published on Insurance Journal on Dec. 22, 2022. Reporters Will Rabb is the Southeast Editor of Insurance Journal.