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Business Observer Wednesday, Apr. 8, 2020 1 month ago

Don't look now, but hurricane season is coming

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For HCI, a Tampa property insurance firm, the coronavirus pandemic is validation of its crisis preparation plans.
by: Brian Hartz Tampa Bay Editor

HCI Group Chairman and CEO Paresh Patel has a stark reminder for property owners reeling from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis: Hurricane season is coming. 

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, right? But that’s the job of insurance companies — to anticipate and calculate risk. Tampa-based HCI Group (NYSE: HCI), which reported $242.47 million in revenue last year, up 4.8% from $231.29 million in 2018, primarily sells homeowners and flood insurance, so it hasn’t been battered with business disruption claims like some other companies.

“We are not in the primary line of fire,” Patel says. “But because of how we think about hurricanes, we have a lot of empathy for the people who are right there in the path of this thing.” 

'We’re trying to keep people connected and manage stress in a highly stressful situation.' Kevin Mitchell, president of TypTap, a division of HCI Group.

Indeed, the coronavirus pandemic has been likened to an agonizingly slow-moving hurricane. Mindful of the risk of continuing to do business as usual, Patel says HCI Group employees began to work from home starting March 1, and by March 16, the firm’s headquarters had been completely evacuated. “It happened rather seamlessly,” he says, “because we’ve been practicing this every year for a decade.” 

Kevin Mitchell, president of TypTap, a division of HCI Group founded to change the way flood insurance was marketed and sold, says the company’s HR department has gone above and beyond to keep employee morale up amid the worsening COVID-19 crisis. 

“They’re in constant communication [with employees]," he says, “sharing healthy recipes, exercise routines, different ways to work out. We’re trying to keep people connected and manage stress in a highly stressful situation.” 

Before being sent home, all employees were asked if their ability to work would be affected by domestic challenges, such as child care and home schooling. That way, HCI Group was able to proactively plan for other employees to pick up the slack. 

HCI Group also helped agents who are hurting financially: It issued March commission checks 10 days early and offered to advance agents their April and May commission checks, as well, if they need the cash flow. “We’re all in this together,” Patel says. 

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