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Business Observer Friday, Dec. 23, 2011 9 years ago

Under Rated

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John Pollock is a senior vice president with BB&T Insurance Services in Fort Myers.
by: Jean Gruss Contributing Writer

As the senior vice president overseeing the Florida operations of BB&T's Insurance Services, Pollock helps guide 13 offices and 317 employees in the state for the nation's sixth-largest insurance brokerage firm.

The Fort Myers native and 21-year veteran of the insurance brokerage industry became president of Oswald Trippe & Co. in 2002, until the firm was acquired by BB&T in 2010.

Pollock says he thinks more acquisitions will occur in the new year, while Citizens will remain problematic.

Q: We've seen consolidations, mergers and acquisitions in your industry. Is that going to continue next year?

A: Yes, I think the trend will continue in 2012. There are a couple newer players in the acquisition arena that have popped up, so they're going to be aggressive and make their market.

Q: Who are these players?

A: Some of them are private-equity money. A lot of those are accumulators who roll them up and turn it seven to 10 years from now. But some are longer-term players.

Q: Has Florida been able to attract new insurance providers to the state?

A: I think people see Florida as an opportunity, but the rate environment is still challenging for a lot of people to make an entry. We haven't seen a lot of new players in 2011 and probably won't see a whole lot in 2012. We're actually seeing some consolidation in the insurance-company arena. We've had a couple companies shut down by the department of insurance.

Q: What is the outlook for Citizens Insurance, the state property insurer, and could it raise rates?

A: The governor has challenged the board of Citizens to come up with ways to depopulate Citizens. The numbers are pretty staggering. As of Sept. 30, Citizens had 1,459,982 policies. They're basically writing 1,000 policies a day and they have over $500 billion of exposure in the state of Florida. They have been increasing rates an average of 10% a year, but that's not enough.

Q: In order to attract new companies to the state, Citizens' rates need to be much higher than they are today?

A: Yes, that's the barrier. A company might say they want to come to Florida, but no one's going to pay twice as much to go to a private market, especially in this economic environment. And as long as the banks and the mortgage companies are willing to accept Citizens' paper, which they are, why would someone do it?

Q: What's the outlook for workers' compensation rates?

A: The rates have already been approved to go up 8%, so that's going to be a bite for people to swallow.

Q: And health insurance?

A: The cost trend is still going up.

Q: What's your outlook and what are customers saying about 2012?

A: Different industries have different outlooks. Health care and technology might have a more optimistic outlook than construction, manufacturing or the service industry. Everyone wants to be hopeful and optimistic, but they're not seeing the results. People are categorizing stagnant as good. It would be nice to have stability in our government and find a way to add jobs in our country. I think people have learned a lot over the past five years and the ones that survived are healthier for it and are in a good position for when the economy does change. But I don't think anyone has figured out how to change the economy.

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