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Tower Hill’s Don Matz and Commonwealth Insurance’s Jason Butts

Welcome back to Studio 10. If there’s one thing every single homeowner in Tampa Bay knows about, it’s insurance. And most of the discussion surrounding this topic usually is littered with complaints.

But that’s because so many of our policies are handled by out-of-state agents who have no real connection to or knowledge of Florida and our needs as Floridians. So with the folks of Tower Hill, they are here to explain why their company works differently.

And Don Matz, President of Tower Hill Insurance Group, is with us along with Jason Butts, an agent with Commonwealth Insurance. And uh, fellas, we’re excited to learn about an alternative here so, what’s the idea or the philosophy behind Tower Hill Insurance Group, Don? Well Holly, Tower Hill’s been in Florida since 1972. We’ve survived a lot of storms from Hurricane Andrew through the storms in 2004, 2005 and all the ones in-between, so we’re here to serve Florida policyholders. You understand where we are coming from and the fears that people have. Yes. And what sets Tower Hill apart from other Florida insurance companies?

Because I think that we’re always a little nervous about insurance regardless of who holds our policy. Sure, what sets us apart is our longevity and our experience in Florida. As I mentioned, we’ve been here 38 years, been through all of those hurricanes. In fact, in 2004-2005 we paid over 133,000 claims and settled over 90% of them in less than 90 days. Oh wow! Because we’ve been here so long, one of the keys is our conservative management and we’ve been here 38 years- we want to be here another 38 years so we buy a lot of reinsurance. And reinsurance is nothing more than insurance for insurance companies. And it enables us to pay our policyholders in the event of such a large catastrophe. In that case of 133,000 claims we paid out over $2 billion dollars in claims those 2 years and the majority of that money came from reinsurance. With hurricane season starting up obviously everybody’s getting prepared and insurance is probably the #1 thing. It is, hurricane season started yesterday and it’s on the top of everyone’s mind and now’s the perfect time to meet with your agent, such as Jason, and make sure you’re probably covered. And let’s talk a little bit about that, Jason, what would be your advice to anybody who maybe is looking to switch policies or just prepare themselves for hurricane season in general? Well the first thing you definitely want to do is talk to your agent make sure you understand your coverages, um, make sure that you know what’s covered and not covered. One thing going into hurricane season that most people need to be reminded of is flood is not covered by homeowners policies.

And that’s a separate policy that you should talk to your agent about. This is a hot topic right now, too, because a lot of people are just finding that out. They’re just discovering that maybe their policy doesn’t include flood insurance. Yeah that’s correct I mean most policies clearly state in there that flood insurance is not covered. But we all assume. It is one of the things that uh… you know over the last couple years I think with the education has kind of gotten out there that more people been made aware of it and we’ve see an increase in flood insurance policies especially with uh…the forecast this this season thinking that it’s going to be a little bit higher than active. It doesn’t look good. Well everybody talks about the wind of a hurricane but a lot times it’s that storm surge that ends up costing people more money because of the flooding and stuff like that so I would take care of my flooding, obviously, first. There’s a lot of companies, like was being said, that went under. You know, couldn’t sustain all the hurricanes through the years. How does a policyholder make sure that their insurance company is OK for them as hurricane season comes up? I think the best thing to do is to ask questions, do some research on it, ask about the financial stability uh… talk to your agent.

Find out what the agents claim history is with that company and how those uh… people, if they’ve been resolved, they’ve been resolved in a manner where the people were satisfied. You know we partnered with Tower Hill in 2002 when we first opened the doors to my agency. These guys, they understand it from the top down. What I like about Tower Hill is they have a long-term commitment to Florida. They’re financially stable, they’re sound.

They take care of their policyholders and it’s been a great partnership for us. I think it is a nerve-wracking subject to brooch a lot of times and something that maybe we feel uh… frightened to call and ask the questions. But you all seem that you are seem like, you know, you’re very willing to answer those questions if people just call you and have them for you. Absolutely. And at Tower Hill we have over 400 employees, and over 100 of those employees are dedicated to servicing the claims needs of our policyholders. When you purchase an insurance policy what you’re really purchasing is a promise to pay, a promise to indemnify you in the event you have a loss — in this case your property or your possessions.

And so we have that staff dedicated to making sure we deliver on that promise. Right we all get a little bit nervous that we’re going to be sitting there like sitting ducks with the blue tarps waiting forever in the event that there is storm and it is very likely this year that we could at least encounter a minor one.

Well like Jason was just saying about asking questions, I think even as a homeowners myself, there’s times when you feel like boy this is a stupid question to ask the insurance. I should know this. I own a home, I should know. But there’s no stupid questions because it could cost you your livelihood if you don’t ask that question. Yeah absolutely I mean we get it all the time where people will call. You know, one thing that I always tell my clients is, don’t wait until a storm is upon us to call.

Normally at that point there’s not a whole lot that we can do. You know hurricane season is a great time to prepare and to have a plan. But you should review your coverages and know what you have going in. And I think having a plan is the biggest thing and it is gonna keep people safe when it comes time if we do have to leave our homes or if we have a storm. Well speaking of making a plan there are lots of ways to do that. First of all, our 2010 Hurricane Preparedness Guide is now available at all ACE Hardware locations you can pick this up at any of them. And you can learn more about Tower Hill – they’re right there- by picking this up.

You can also talk directly to Jason by going to Commonwealth Insurance and get more information there as well. And you can go to Studio10.tv and we have all of that information listed free there as well. Thanks fellas. Thank you. Happy hurricane season. Alright, coming up next on Studio 10 we’ll be announcing the winner of the SPCA photo contest so stick around. This segment was sponsored by Tower Hill Insurance Group.