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Business Observer Friday, Apr. 3, 2015 3 years ago

Reynolds wrap

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Revenues are up 50% in four years at Gulfstream Property and Casualty Insurance Co., mostly from Florida customers, but the firm has bigger ambitions.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

There are few things Doug Reynolds hasn't seen or done in insurance, from running a division at Allstate to overseeing the Southeast Asia market for industry giant AIG, based in Hong Kong.

Reynolds is now immersed in a task smaller in stature, but one with potentially more challenges. In January, Reynolds was named president and CEO of Lakewood Ranch-based Gulfstream Property and Casualty Insurance Co. The firm, founded in 2004, is at something of a crossroads: Premiums are up in four consecutive years, and have grown 56% since 2011, from $62.8 million to $131.4 million in 2014. Around 80% of the polices behind those revenues, says Reynolds, come from Florida.

Reynolds' main task is to diversify and expand Gulfstream's presence outside the Sunshine State. Gulfstream writes polices for homeowners, condo owners, apartment renters and dwelling fire insurance coverage, using a network of independent agents. With about 70,000 homes covered, the firm has a small segment of customers in Louisiana, Mississippi and entered Alabama and Texas last year.

Getting bigger in those states will spread the firm's risk, in addition to helping secure new revenues streams, executives say. “We still want to grow in Florida,” says Reynolds, “but we want to grow more rapidly outside of the state.”

There are several keys to succeeding with a multistate insurance operation, says Reynolds, which he bases on his global career experience.

One sometimes overlooked factor, Reynolds says, is a hyper focus on pricing of policies, both internally and looking at what the competition does. Another important element is to create an atmosphere where the independent agents are both knowledgeable and comfortable selling the right policies to the right clients. “You have to work with them to meet their needs,” says Reynolds.

One immediate challenge Gulfstream faces in its effort to grow quickly in other states is the regulatory environment. Reynolds is acutely aware of that dynamic and how it differs from state to state. But he takes a pragmatic approach with Gulfstream.

“Every state has challenges and opportunities,” Reynolds says. “You have to set your sights on listening to both sides and try to find a solution.”

Reynolds, whose first job in insurance was in the Allstate underwriting department, has another lofty goal at Gulfstream. He wants to develop a strong leadership team at the firm, which has about 30 employees. His leadership style is inquisitive and challenging. He wants Gulfstream employees to probe deeply into the firm's financial performance regularly.

It's an attention-to-detail philosophy Reynolds honed at Allstate, AIG and later Springfield, Ill.-based Horace Mann Educators Corp., where he ran the firm's national property/casualty lines and financial services business. “You have to look at the numbers and ask questions,” Reynolds says. “The more you bring up for analysis, the more successful you will be.”

Not that Reynolds, 61, plans on leaving Gulfstream anytime soon. In addition to the opportunity to grow the business, Gulfstream provides Reynolds with something else: He gets to run a nimble firm not bogged down by bureaucracy. That hasn't always been the case in his career.

“I love getting involved with this,” Reynolds says. “To be able to help lead some effective change is a lot of fun.”

Follow Mark Gordon on Twitter @markigordon

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