Meet the new boss at Lakewood Ranch-based FCCI Insurance Group

Jul 25, 2011

FCCI Insurance Group President Craig Johnson 

Above:  FCCI Insurance Group President Craig Johnson

The following article was published July 25, 2011 by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune:




Meet the new boss at Lakewood Ranch-based FCCI Insurance Group

By Kevin McQuaid

Craig Johnson seemed set in an insurance career in his native Baltimore until a Pompano Beach vacation and a call from FCCI Insurance Group changed both his geography and his professional path.

That was 2003, when Johnson joined the Lakewood Ranch-based insurer as a vice president and the company’s controller.

In June, eight years and three promotions later, Johnson became FCCI’s president and chief executive, taking over for longtime company head G.W. Jacobs, who retired June 3 but remains a member of the company’s board.

In many respects, while Johnson’s rise at FCCI has been meteoric, it parallels that of the insurer itself, which now operates in 15 states — from Florida to Michigan — and employs 675 nationwide.

In 2008, for instance, FCCI generated net income of about $9 million on revenue of $510 million.

Two years later, while still in the grips of the nation’s worst economic recession in seven decades, FCCI posted net profit of $35 million, on premiums of $461 million.

“We had a very good year despite a tough economy,” said Johnson, 42.

Moreover, he expects the company to continue its strong performance in 2011. FCCI this year is on track to again produce about $35 million in net income, with revenue slated to be $480 million.

The performance has captured attention within the insurance industry and from A.M. Best Co., the nation’s oldest and largest insurance-rating firm.

A.M. Best’s most recent rating for FCCI was an A-, with a “stable” outlook for the future, according to the company’s website.

“The outlook reflects FCCI’s improved operating results and continued strong capital position that continues to support its expansion initiatives,” A.M. Best said.

Those expansion initiatives include moving into Virginia and Maryland this year, and Texas in 2012.

To operate in those states, FCCI must first obtain state licenses and link with agency partners and individual insurance representatives.

“One of our primary strategies is to grow in an orderly and disciplined way, and in a profitable way,” Johnson said in his third-floor office in the company’s modern, concrete-and-glass office building in Lakewood Ranch, which was completed in May 2001.

“Our philosophy has always been one agent at a time, one account at a time,” he said. “We’d rather consider an acquisition here or there, but the primary growth focus will be through our organic model. I’d rather find the right people and build the business through them.”

That strategy has served FCCI well in its 52-year history.

Today, though the mutual company — a structure that means its 48,000 policyholders and 500 agents effectively own FCCI — specializes in workers compensation insurance, it has expanded, steadily, into commercial lines.

Agriculture-related insurance, along with auto, general liability, inland marine, property and umbrella policies, account for about 56 percent of FCCI’s total business.

Just as importantly, its corporate structure allows FCCI a longer horizon to consider business moves than the publicly traded insurers that comprise much of its competition.

“We don’t have to worry about where our common stock is trading on a particular day or about hitting the quarterly numbers for Wall Street,” Johnson said.

In addition to growth, Johnson seems determined to maintain and preserve FCCI’s reputation for integrity among its agents and customers alike.

“I’m focused right now on never forgetting the values and the ethics that got us here,” he said. “It took 52 years to build our reputation. Our relationships with our agents are paramount. So many companies seem to have forgotten risk management of late — Lehman Bros., Bear Stearns, IndyMac Bank, Washington Mutual — so I always want to have the culture here where we remember our past.”

It is that dedication to the ideals of the past that has helped propel Johnson’s career.

A graduate of Loyola College of Maryland, Johnson in 1990 joined accounting firm Deloitte & Touche, then one of the so-called “Big Six” nationwide accounting firms.

Two years later, he joined insurance giant USF&G Corp., rising to the position of senior financial director and controller of the company’s commercial lines.

In 2000, following USF&G’s purchase by The St. Paul Cos., Johnson joined a start-up called American Skyline Insurance as a vice president and its chief financial officer. He was there until FCCI called about its controller post.

At FCCI, Johnson’s rise continued.

Two years after joining the company in August 2003, he was promoted to senior vice president. A year after that, he was tapped to become chief financial officer and executive vice president.

In March, he topped six other internal candidates to ascend to FCCI’s helm.

“He’s a very quick study and he has an insightful mind,” said John T. Stafford, FCCI’s chairman since 2004 and the former chief executive of SunCoast Bank of Sarasota. “Craig also has a fantastic recall of numbers, he understands management and has a great skill set for the insurance industry.

“I think we’re extremely well positioned for him to carry us into the future with our planned state expansions,” Stafford said. “He has all the tools you’d like to see: He’s young, and capable, and perhaps most importantly, he understands the corporate culture at FCCI.”

For his part, Johnson said he views his latest promotion as a vehicle to help the company overall.

“I know we’ll be successful here, not because of one person but because there are a lot of strong people around me. Together, we make a pretty strong team.”

Johnson admits his goals for the team are fairly ambitious. By 2016, he hopes FCCI will operate in 20 states and generate revenue of $700 million annually.

He hopes to grow assets, too, from a current $1.8 billion to $2 billion, and to increase the company’s Generally Accepted Accounting Principles equity to $650 million from its current $560 million.

But his primary aim is not monetary.

“In five years, I really want us to be even more important to our customers,” he said. “We’ll accomplish that by turning up the dial, just a little bit.”