ST. PETERSBURG — As founder and CEO of St. Petersburg-based C1 Bank, Trevor Burgess was hailed as an innovative leader in an often stodgy industry. In 2015, Burgess’ prowess paid off when Bank of the Ozarks bought C1 for $402 million.
Now back in the states after a round-the-world sabbatical, Burgess is focusing his attention on another business sorely in need of innovation — flood insurance.
Burgess has become majority shareholder in Neptune Flood, a new company that says it can save homeowners up to 25 percent on their premiums with faster approval times and greater coverage amounts
“I did a lot of research on the industry and Neptune and became very excited about how technology could really change the way people approach a necessary financial service like flood insurance,” Burgess said Thursday.
The St. Petersburg-based company, whose policies are underwritten by Lloyd’s of London, currently has policy holders only in Florida but is expanding soon to Virginia and Texas and expects to be in 20 states by year’s end.
Most of the country’s 5 million flood insurance policies are with the beleaguered National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). An effort to raise rates in 2012 to actuarially sound levels created temporary havoc in real estate markets in Florida and other coastal states where many homeowners and buyers would have faced huge increases in their premiums.
Congress has repeatedly put off a long-term fix for the program, which is $25 billion in debt, but rates are almost certain to rise dramatically to help cover losses from major flooding events like last year’s hurricanes.
Neptune Flood is among the small private companies that have sprung up to offer alternatives to the NFIP. Unlike others, Burgess said, it uses advanced mapping technologies and aerial remote sensing to determine the risk of flooding in an area.
For now, consumers must buy Neptune polices through an agent. But within a few weeks, they should be able to go on the company’s web site, enter basic information about their home and get a quote without an elevation certificate or other documentation that is required by the national program.
Neptune also offers same-day quotes, compared to the NFIP’s 30-day waiting period, and up to $500,0000 in coverage, far more than in the national program.
Burgess acknowledges that Neptune won’t necessarily beat NFIP rates for homes in high-risk flood zones “but we are going to make it very clear to people if we can offer it for less,” he said. “And price won’t be the only reason why somebody might want to go with us.”
Burgess, who made $9 million through non-compete and change-in-control agreements when C1 was sold, contributed much of the $2 million in seed capital recently raised by Neptune. He also will join its board of directors.
As head of C1 bank, Burgess gained national attention as one of the few openly gay executives of a publicly traded company as well as for marketing chops that resulted in C1 becoming the official bank of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. By the time Bank of the Ozarks bought it, CI had branches in most of Florida’s top markets and was among the nation’s fastest growing banks.
After the sale, Burgess, his husband, Realtor Gary Hess, and their 8-year-old daughter spent a year visiting 10 European countries plus Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.
“It was a tremendous adventure and when we came back we settled just outside of Boston,” said Burgess, who went to college in New England. There, he reconnected with Bill Martin, the former CEO of Bankers Insurance in St. Petersburg who had moved to Boston and founded Neptune along with another Bankers’ executive, Jim Albert.
“They were looking for both financing and a partner to help them,” Burgess said.
Albert is currently running Neptune out of his home in St. Petersburg, which Burgess says is becoming a “hot bed of start-up technology companies.” He is often in Florida himself. He is still on the board of the Salvador Dali Museum and has a new company that is developing single family retirement homes in Manatee and Charlotte Counties.
“Florida keeps pulling me back,” Burgess said.