The Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (FAPIA) recently celebrated its 30th Anniversary with a splendid gala. The event honored several prominent policyholder advocates, including Amy Bach from United Policyholders, Doug Quinn of the American Policyholders Association, and Tasha Carter, the appointed Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate. The dinner was a smashing success, completely sold out, and so high in demand that some hopeful attendees were turned away at the red carpet entrance.
I had the privilege of speaking at this momentous occasion, reflecting on my role in founding FAPIA and sharing my vision for its future. What struck me most was the incredible progress we have made as an organization. What began as a small cadre of public adjusters has blossomed into a full-fledged conference, boasting over 600 attendees and a lavish gala, unlike anything I’ve witnessed since I began attending public adjuster events in 1985.
A substantial portion of the credit for FAPIA’s success must go to Nancy Dominguez. She has served as FAPIA’s “good shepherd,” steering the organization with her collaborative leadership and indomitable perseverance. Nancy has been instrumental in molding FAPIA into an impactful organization that hosts engaging and educational events eagerly anticipated by its members.
Success in any endeavor rarely occurs by chance. In the case of FAPIA, its current accomplishments can largely be attributed to the steadfast commitment and passion of Nancy Dominguez. She’s a humble leader, deeply committed to the mission and work of public adjusters.
Here is my interview:
Could you walk us through your journey from becoming a licensed public adjuster in 1999 to your current role as Managing Director of FAPIA? What motivated the transition?
In 1999, I embarked on a remarkable career as a public adjuster. For the previous 15 years, I had dedicated my life as a paralegal, working diligently alongside attorneys to serve the legal needs of clients. It was a rewarding journey, one filled with complex cases, legal intricacies, and a strong sense of justice.
During my years as a paralegal, I witnessed numerous cases involving insurance claims. I witnessed the struggles that policyholders faced when seeking fair compensation for their losses. Many of them found themselves in an uphill battle against powerful insurance companies, navigating a complex and often overwhelming process on their own. I was deciding whether I should study to become an attorney and, hopefully, a partner at the firm I was working for when a friend told me about public adjusting. At the time, I had never heard of a public adjuster, which is funny since the current incarnation of my career is all about being an important resource for public adjusters and helping them in every way possible through FAPIA.
In 2004, I joined FAPIA and became involved in the Public Relations Committee and the Legislative Committee. Two years later, I was asked to be on the Board. I was slated to be the second female and the first Hispanic person to become President of FAPIA. In 2011, when I was FAPIA’s President-Elect, our Managing Director resigned. President Pat Cuccaro and the Board had to find someone to run FAPIA on a temporary basis. I agreed to take on the role.
While doing so, I changed and updated many of the association’s systems to provide a good foundation for the next Managing Director. Just a few months before I was to become President, the Board asked me to take on the position permanently. The caveat was that I could not be President and Managing Director at the same time because it could be construed as a conflict of interest. I wanted to take on the role of President, but I honestly felt that I could do more good over the long term by accepting the offer. Nearly 13 years later, I am in a position where I feel all of my background experiences are utilized, and I could not be happier.
What were some of the most impactful projects you worked on as a public adjuster that have shaped your views and approaches in your current role?
I had the privilege of representing an elderly gentleman from Jamaica who had been severely affected by Hurricane Charley. Language and cultural barriers compounded his difficulties in understanding the intricacies of his insurance claim. As someone who previously lived in the islands, I shared a cultural connection with him that helped bridge the gap.
When I entered his home to assess the damages, it became abundantly clear that the initial payout of $2,000 from his insurer was grossly insufficient. The extent of the damage was far greater than what had been accounted for. It was a humbling moment, recognizing the vulnerability of policyholders like him, especially those who were non-English speakers.
I secured an adjusted claim payout of nearly $80,000. When I handed him the check, his eyes welled up with tears of gratitude. It was a poignant reminder of the profound impact our work as public adjusters can have on the lives of policyholders, particularly those facing unique challenges.
As the Managing Director of FAPIA, what do you see as the most significant accomplishments during your tenure? Could you elaborate on any key initiatives you’re particularly proud of?
Communication and collaboration. I believe one of the most important initiatives that I’m very proud of is our online collaboration between Board members and committee members. At one time, all communications were either in person or via email. We created an online collaboration site in 2014 that has revolutionized the way we communicate among the Board, our professionals, our Associate members, and committees.
We created a database that allows us to reach out to public adjusters, members or not, in any given legislative district in Florida. We call it the Ambassador Legislative Emergency Response Team or ALERT. We help train public adjusters who are interested in answering a call to action to help whenever needed. We provide all the necessary tools for public adjusters to reach out as constituents to their elected officials and help educate them. It has been key to many of our legislative successes over the years.
Looking ahead, what are the top priorities or projects for FAPIA in the next 3-5 years?
Preventing anti-consumer legislation, even in an atmosphere that is not friendly to insurance consumers in our great state, is a top priority for our industry. It is imperative that every public adjuster get involved. There is also a great deal of concern about policy forms continuously removing so much coverage and creating gaps that policyholders are often unable to recover from. This is not just a Florida problem. It’s a national problem that must be shouted from the hilltops because most policyholders are unaware of these gaps until they have a loss.
Given your years of experience, what advice would you offer aspiring public adjusters or those interested in getting involved with policyholder advocacy organizations like FAPIA?
I would urge new public adjusters in Florida to join FAPIA because we offer valuable resources, guidance, and mentorship. This includes free access to our PA Academy CE Webinar courses, forms library, and discounts for attending our fantastic networking and educational events. We also offer regulatory guidance and assistance whenever a public adjuster member has any concerns about DFS inquiries. Every year, we add another valuable offering like member benefit discounts or individual regulatory guidance to our members. Not to mention the fact that the only thing that comes between the total annihilation of our industry in Florida and our ability to adjust claims for policyholders is FAPIA. Whether it be through our political committee, Public Adjusters for the Insuring Public, our Ambassadors, or the professional relationships we’ve developed with regulators over the years, FAPIA will always be here to promote, preserve, and protect our industry as it has done for the past 30 years. We offer first-time members a great budget-friendly discount on dues for their first year – 50% off! It’s only $250.00, which can be paid in monthly installments of only $21. It makes no sense not to be a member of FAPIA.
In your experience, what are some common misunderstandings policyholders have about insurance that public adjusters can help clarify?
Most policyholders have no idea what their homeowners insurance is for or how to properly present a claim. A good public adjuster can help with everything from properly assessing and documenting the totality of damages to reading and interpreting the legalese of policy language. We then hold insurers to the promises made so a full settlement is reached. This task is becoming more difficult. Florida’s last legislative session lowered many consumer protections. The result is that some policyholders may not choose to dispute claims that are underpaid or improperly denied. I believe the pendulum of legislation has swung too far to the protection of insurance companies over policyholders. We’ve seen attacks against consumers in the past that had to be overcome. I sincerely trust that we will meet these challenges because the people who are most affected, the policyholders, need our help in the legislature. We will once again work hard to support their interests in Tallahassee.
What kinds of challenges do public adjusters commonly face, and how has FAPIA worked to address them?
FAPIA has implemented robust educational programs and continuing education requirements for all public adjusters. This commitment to professional development ensures that policyholders receive the best possible representation from our licensed insurance professionals.
FAPIA has played a crucial role in enhancing the standards and ethics within the public adjusting industry. Our strict code of ethics holds our members to the highest standards of integrity and professionalism. Our Ethics Committee, consisting of ten public adjuster members who volunteer for this service, follows strict research and interview protocols. We have successfully resolved many disputes among public adjusters and their clients.
As someone who champions policyholder interests, what regulatory changes do you think would make the most positive impact on the public adjusting industry?
Following a natural disaster, Florida has many out-of-state public adjusters who may not be familiar with our rules and regulations. This creates an atmosphere where more complaints are filed against public adjusters, and that kind of data can create a negative narrative that impacts the profession. I believe it would be helpful to require nonresident public adjusters to take and pass the five-hour law and ethics course – which is not required of them at this time. I believe when any public adjuster does business in any state, they should be familiar with and follow all of the regulatory requirements to avoid leaving a negative blemish on our own industry.
You’ve served in various roles within FAPIA over the years. How has your leadership style evolved, and what principles guide you in leading the association?
I have served in various roles, including chairing the Ethics, Public Relations, Membership, and Convention committees. I’ve been a member, a volunteer, a leader, and now a manager. I would have to say that one of the things I have learned has been to listen. Listening is a fundamental way for leaders to understand the needs, concerns, and perspectives of their team members, colleagues, or constituents. By actively listening, I can gain insights into what motivates and challenges our Board and members. I always try to demonstrate a willingness to listen, and I believe this helps to build trust. This is a crucial component of effective leadership because it fosters open and honest communication. Team members are more likely to express their ideas, concerns, and feedback when they know you are listening. Many of FAPIA’s best initiatives were born from ideas that members shared with us. These include adding entertainment to FAPIA events suggested by our late friend and convention committee member, Bob Cook, the launch of the Policyholder Ambassadors legislative committee at the suggestion of Board member, Michael Ross LoBiondo, and the creation of the Community Affairs Committee allowed FAPIA members to “Pay It Forward” at the suggestion of Board member, Juan Moya. Listening to our members is key to ensuring we have robust programs that are valuable to them.
Could you share an experience where you had to navigate through a particularly challenging period at FAPIA? How did you handle it?
There have been a few challenging times in my FAPIA experience. I prefer to concentrate on the positive. When I first accepted this position, many were angry at FAPIA for a variety of reasons. I remember when I first took this position, and I had to contact a member who had not renewed their dues, I would get an earful about how FAPIA was not doing anything. Fortunately, our communication with members has greatly improved. When they renew their membership, we often receive FAPIA thanks for everything we do for the industry. We are a much more informed association and offering value, resulting in FAPIA becoming the largest public adjusting association in the nation with over 900 active members.
What strategies do you employ to ensure FAPIA continuously improves its programs and offerings?
Listening to our members has allowed us to tap into the collective knowledge and creativity of the FAPIA family. By hearing diverse viewpoints and ideas, we have been able to make more informed decisions and solve broader problems. We have an amazing team of professionals who genuinely care about the future of advocacy and who deserve the best we can offer. We always try to find one more thing of value we can offer our members. That has been a successful strategy.
Thought For The Day
Leadership is not about being in charge. It’s about taking care of those in your charge.