Ray Altieri, Jr.—Public Adjuster Spotlight

Ray Altieri, Jr.—Public Adjuster Spotlight

The Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters is on the brink of celebrating its 30th Anniversary. A milestone that evokes a deep sense of nostalgia in me, as I was present at its inception, thanks to an invitation from Ray Altieri, Jr. It feels fitting, given the occasion, to spotlight Ray in an interview, granting readers an insight into the wisdom of someone profoundly versed in public adjusting, the nuances of safeguarding policyholders, and the intricacies of the profession.

Over the decades, I’ve watched with keen interest as Ray’s quaint, family-driven public adjusting firm has evolved. What was once spearheaded by the family patriarch is now in the capable hands of the next generation. Change, as they say, is the only constant. However, it’s the lessons from our past that illuminate our path forward, guiding us to make more informed decisions. Without further ado, here’s my candid conversation with Ray:

How did you begin your journey as a public adjuster?

I kickstarted my adjusting journey in 1980 with Aetna Life & Casualty in Syracuse, New York. Their training was unparalleled, and I was entrusted with handling significant claims in my territory against some of the nation’s top public adjusters, notably from National Fire Adjustment (NFA) in Syracuse and Basloe, Levin, & Cuccaro (BLC) from Utica, NY. During one of my assignments, Jim Donovan from BLC greeted me with a simple, “Hi Ray, How are you doing?” Rather than the usual “Good,” I responded with “Crappy!”—a reflection of my growing discontent after five years with Aetna. This led him to inquire if I’d ever contemplated becoming a public adjuster. I took a moment, then expressed my openness to the idea. That was 1985. Coincidentally, Adjusters International (AI) had recently been established, with BLC as a foundational member and BLC’s Ron Cuccaro as AI’s president. The idea of transitioning to this role was enticing; donning professional attire daily, driving a sleek car, receiving gratitude from clients I assisted during challenging times, and, of course, the financial rewards. When opposing them, I always admired the proficiency of public adjusters—their meticulousness, in-depth policy knowledge, and sheer ability to present a compelling case. It made me aspire to offer that level of expertise and support to someone.

Could you share a standout story from your early days as a public adjuster in New York?

One story that stands out from my initial years as a 28-year-old public adjuster in New York isn’t a singular incident but a fusion of numerous client solicitations against competing public adjusters. Racing to a new loss felt akin to competing in a high-stakes sports championship. My heart raced as I aimed to outpace competitors to the loss site, searching for the owner. Upon finding them, I’d have to rapidly launch into my pitch, all the while being on the lookout for rival public adjusters who might interrupt my conversation. Internally, the pressure was palpable, yet I had to maintain a calm exterior to persuade the owner of my capability and why hiring me was in their best interest. And when I managed to secure that contract amidst this whirlwind? The feeling was absolutely exhilarating. It truly was a remarkable dance.

What prompted your relocation to Florida, and how was the transition?

In 1986, the allure of moving to Florida became irresistible, driven by a blend of my aversion to harsh winters, a passion for baseball, and the aspiration for my two sons (eventually, four sons) to play baseball in the sunny state. Further sweetening the prospect was the presence of a childhood friend and his family in Tampa. Despite these enticements, the relocation wasn’t easy. I was leaving behind a cherished job, cherished colleagues who had offered me golden opportunities, and the comforting embrace of family back in Utica, New York. My initial days in Tampa saw me working with the Hartford Insurance Company, but the allure of public adjusting beckoned. By the month’s end, I had delved deep into reconnaissance to launch my own public adjusting firm. This involved reaching out to local public and independent adjusters to grasp fire loss activities and connecting with the eight counties comprising the Tampa Bay region for fire-related statistics and their estimated damages. With these insights, I meticulously crafted a report, laboring till the wee hours one night. This report was then mailed to my associates at BLC, extending them the first opportunity in Tampa. Their affirmative came after a year, and when questioned about the delay, Ron Cuccaro humorously remarked, “We had to ensure your wife was set on staying and not hankering for a return home!” His reasoning was sound!

As the calendar turned to January 1, 1988, I proudly inaugurated the public adjusting firm, American Loss Adjustment. This was followed by my association with NAPIA in 1989 and a brand evolution to Adjusters International Florida by 1990. The year 1995 marked a new chapter as I ventured independently to establish what we now recognize as Altieri Insurance Consultants. Thanks to some adept adjusters and an unwavering commitment to accuracy, tenacity, and professionalism, we’ve molded it into the esteemed entity it is today.

What’s your current position at Altieri Insurance Consultants, and what are your responsibilities?

Currently, as the Chairman of Altieri Insurance Consultants, my role has evolved into one of strategy, guidance, and mentorship. Primarily, I’m engaged in claim strategy formulation and consultation, though occasionally, I’ll directly manage a claim. My 43 years of expertise in property claims adjusting now provide clients with more direct and expedited access to valuable insights. Additionally, this position enables me to oversee and influence the claims handled by our team, ensuring clients receive optimal settlements. We’re fortunate to have a team of highly skilled professional adjusters at Altieri, and I wholeheartedly trust their skills and dedication in managing both intricate and typical loss claims. My availability for spontaneous consultation and advice ensures our adjusters receive timely guidance when they encounter pressing queries. We also boast an exemplary support team, spearheaded by our CFO, Andy Altieri. His leadership assures me that the company’s business and financial operations are in the safest, most proficient hands.

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Following my elevation to Chairman, I’ve been elated with the leadership team I’ve installed, comprising my sons Ray and Frank Altieri, along with Andrew Knox and Kevin Kimball. These individuals aren’t just seasoned adjusters but also adept leaders. Their expertise ranges from handling multiple multi-million-dollar losses simultaneously to achieving pinnacle results. Both Ray and Frank have grown up immersed in this field, paralleled by Andrew and Kevin, who also have familial ties to public adjusting. Their combined backgrounds have enriched the firm, with Andrew and Kevin introducing forward-thinking strategies and systems that have elevated our operational efficacy. Our senior adjusters have been instrumental in our growth, building upon the reputation we’ve nurtured since our foundation, enhancing our technical prowess, and delivering top-tier results for our clients. The collective contributions of our team fill me with immense pride.

How did the idea for FAPIA come about, and what was it like collaborating with me and the other founders?

Back in August 1992, while I served on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA), Hurricane Andrew ravaged South Florida. This catastrophe drew public adjusters from all corners of the nation. However, amidst genuine adjusters, some unscrupulous individuals wreaked havoc, creating issues for both policyholders and insurers. The severity was such that Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher even cautioned South Floridians against hiring public adjusters.

This matter took center stage at our Mid-Year National Convention in December 1992 in Miami Lakes. Here, a representative from the Department of Insurance hinted at potential legislative actions that could spell the end for public adjusting in Florida. During that discourse, Jerry Levin, my colleague from BLC/AI, whispered that to withstand this looming challenge, Florida’s public adjusters needed their own state association. You, Chip, were present and aligned with this thought. You proposed partnering with attorney Doug Grose, and together, both of you orchestrated outreach to all licensed Public Insurance Adjusters in Florida. The goal? To unify our efforts and provide input before any new legislative actions were set in motion. Your reminder, urging us to position our statements from a consumer’s perspective, resonated deeply. It birthed the mantra, “We must be on the side of Angels!” This strategic approach convinced authorities of our necessity and led to collaborative policy drafting that remains relevant today.

The inaugural FAPIA meeting was both interesting and humorous, given that many of us were direct competitors. Yet, it was the camaraderie and mutual respect, largely influenced by your relationships, that brought cohesiveness. You and Doug championed unity, emphasizing that it was our lifeline. This spirit of solidarity still flourishes three decades later. Naming the organization after NAPIA’s model, electing its leadership, and defining its objectives were crucial early steps. Your guidance throughout this process was invaluable.

Both you and Doug contributed uniquely. If I were to draw a parallel, I’d liken you to the cerebral coach, meticulously strategizing every move, while Doug was the passionate motivator, ensuring we always charged ahead with zeal. Communication, though challenging in an era without widespread internet or affordable cell phones, was efficiently managed by your and Doug’s office teams.

FAPIA’s ascent over the years is awe-inspiring. The credit goes not just to the leadership but significantly to stalwarts like Nancy Dominguez and Robert Perez Ruibal and their dedicated teams. Today, FAPIA stands tall as the country’s premier Public Adjusting organization. Their conventions epitomize excellence in education, setting, affordability, and entertainment. It’s heartening to see new generations bring fresh perspectives, enhancing the association’s growth and reputation.

You experienced a significant divergence of thought with FAPIA, which led to your departure. Can you elaborate on how you found your way back?

By 2013, some of us from the original FAPIA membership, often referred to as the “Old Guard,” found it challenging to align with the emerging perspectives within the organization. We were trained by revered veterans in the public adjusting sphere, who emphasized working discreetly. Drawing from this rich legacy, we believed that the troubles in Tallahassee stemmed primarily from a handful of adjusters practicing business in a manner we found questionable. The crux of the disagreement was a divergence in approach between the Old Guard and the new leadership over an agreement with the Legislature regarding a Fee Cap.

However, in response to our departure, a group of us initiated a new non-competing association. This body comprised diverse stakeholders from the property claims domain, aiming to unify the industry and address ongoing challenges. Despite our departure from FAPIA, I held no resentment towards its leadership. I believe differences in opinion are essential for productive discourse and can lead to well-informed decisions.

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Your journey with NAPIA saw you ascend to its presidency. Could you share insights into this journey and your tenure as President?

Progressing through NAPIA’s ranks proved instrumental in refining my professional skills. Interactions with key industry figures, from Insurance Commissioners to insurance claim professionals, enriched my understanding and effectiveness. Furthermore, the camaraderie with peers and the mutual exchange of strategies and solutions fostered lasting friendships and mutual respect.

However, it was also a time marked by challenges, primarily due to the turbulence in Florida’s public adjusting sector. Serving in leadership positions for both NAPIA and FAPIA simultaneously, I often found myself caught between the two, answering for the actions of one association to the other.

Yet, being elected as the President of NAPIA, a globally recognized public adjuster organization, remains a cherished accolade in my career. Observing esteemed predecessors, I was once daunted by the idea of leading such a group. It scared the heck out of me. However, when the moment arrived, I embraced it, grateful for the opportunities and growth it presented.

Why should public adjusters join regional public adjuster associations? Why should seasoned and new public adjusters join NAPIA?  

If you are a public adjuster and you want to better yourself as a professional, want to be a more effective advocate for your clients, or want to be someone who truly makes a difference in the lives of people, then you will congregate around those who come before so you may learn from their experiences.  You will do this to better your presentation, to better your results, and to be more influential when dealing with insurers. 

Do you want to settle claims quicker, for more money, and maintain a reputation for excellence?  Then, join your regional and national associations. You will never regret it. Does it cost money? Yes! But it is an investment into your future and your personal success that will give back time and again. From a regional standpoint, it is wise to join that organization as well to stay up to date on all state issues relevant to your daily work. The regional associations comprise professionals who see many of the same things you see every day.  Those who speak and provide education offer targeted information to your state that helps you the first day after the conference is over. There are answers to problems inside those meeting rooms, and they are there for you to take advantage of.

Being a part of the National and Regional associations also brings huge networking opportunities. To meet professionals that line up with your values and ways of business brings opportunities that you would not have if you did not invest in the associations, attend the events, and be active within the organizations.

Tell me about your family members working with you. 

As you know, with me are my brother Andrew Altieri, my first-born son Ray Altieri III, and second-born son Frank Altieri, as vital components to the success of our company and in current day leadership.

The family element started with my brother, Andy Altieri, leaving his accounting position inside a major Utility company in upstate New York, where he oversaw budgeting and accounting during the building of a Nuclear Facility on Lake Ontario. I was able to lure him from the snowy tundra to sunny Florida with his new wife in 1997 to become an integral part of my company. His financial skills were just what I needed to service Business Income losses for our developing commercial book of business. After becoming a public adjuster, Andy handled all kinds of property claims for years.  During those times, Andy’s accounting skills saw him voted in as Treasurer of FAPIA, then moving up the ladder to ultimately become FAPIA’s President in 2006. Andy is currently the Chief Financial Officer of Altieri Insurance Consultants, where he runs the business side of our operation.

My oldest son, Raymond III, has been with the firm since 2003, and is now the President and CEO of the company. Ray has worked in every capacity that a public adjuster can work, but now, besides the duties of his office, he focuses his managerial efforts on the entire Sales and Marketing apparatus of the firm. Ray has developed into one of the best Business Development people I have ever worked with, and that includes so many of the stellar operators I have had the pleasure of working with in years past at Adjusters International. Ray has been a two-term member of the NAPIA Board of Directors and was just voted on to the Officer Ladder of NAPIA at its June 2023 Annual Conference in Nashville, TN, as its Treasurer. Ray is on pace to become the association’s President in 2030, making him only the second public adjuster from Florida elected to that office. 

My second son Frank has been with the firm since 2006 after graduating from the University of South Florida. Frank is Executive Vice President of the company and oversees our firm’s Residential Division, as well as being a premier Commercial Large Loss adjuster for us. Frank has also worked in every capacity that a public adjuster can work and has shown a great propensity for forging professionally amicable relationships with many of the insurer Large Loss Adjusters across the United States. Public adjusting can be a contentious profession, but Frank’s sincere, conscientious approach to handling claims is a feature that only a few can master, and it advances our clients’ causes to dramatically successful conclusions. Frank has served on the FAPIA Board of Directors and was voted onto its Officer Ladder as its Secretary in 2021, where he will rise to the Presidency in 2026, making him and I the first Father-Son combination to each serve as the association’s President.

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The family atmosphere is still growing. Andy’s son, Anthony Altieri, has recently joined us after graduating from Florida State.   

How do the challenges and rewards of working alongside family, including the second generation, play out in your experience?

Incorporating family into our business landscape, specifically my brother and two of my four sons has certainly been an intricate dance. Interestingly, the world of public adjusting often seems to gravitate toward family-run enterprises, with many esteemed firms being passed down through multiple generations. This legacy not only affirms that a family-based operation can maintain professionalism and prestige but also counters any notion that we’re merely a “family company” — a label that some competitors might attempt to use pejoratively.

Family, in my eyes, extends beyond blood ties. Our work family does not have to mean only those with the Altieri name. Our corporate culture promotes a familial bond amongst all team members, fostering a sense of unity, trust, and mutual concern. This bond isn’t just about a shared surname but is built upon shared values, goals, and an ethos of fairness. While the company is about more than just financial gains, I have faith that the present leadership will uphold these cherished traditions for years to come.

Looking back on your professional journey, is there anything you’d have approached differently?

Reflection reveals that most challenges, even seemingly significant missteps, have offered valuable lessons or unexpected positive outcomes. My guiding principle I try to pass on is that “you can only control what you do. You cannot control what others do.” I can control only what’s within my purview, not letting the misconduct of others sway my integrity. Rooted in faith, I’ve sought divine guidance in my decisions, believing that aligning with a higher purpose generally leads to contentment with one’s choices.

As FAPIA nears its 30th anniversary with a robust membership, what advice would you offer to its evolving leadership and new entrants?

FAPIA’s growth is a testament to its unwavering commitment to its cause. Yet, maintaining a seat at the table in Tallahassee has been an ongoing challenge, often complicated by shifting political terrains. Despite our best efforts to be proactive, we’ve occasionally found ourselves blindsided by regulatory measures crafted behind closed doors.

To navigate these challenges, I propose:

Strengthen Oversight Collaboration: Consider Mark Boardman’s idea of FAPIA partnering with the DFS. By acting as an initial checkpoint for complaints against public adjusters, FAPIA could streamline the process, addressing minor issues internally and forwarding significant concerns to the DFS. This collaborative approach could optimize the use of resources and maintain the integrity of our profession.

Engage with Influential Stakeholders: Seek out and foster relationships with internal regulators or legislators who have the clout to effect change, both for the betterment of policyholders and the elevation of our profession’s standards.

Form a Unified Council: Establish a Council encompassing leaders from state, regional, and national public adjuster associations. Such a council could facilitate open dialogue on pressing issues, streamline communication, and work collectively to raise awareness about the invaluable service public adjusters provide.

In my journey through the often-convoluted insurance claim world, I have encountered myriad challenges. I have also been graced with countless triumphs. I am certain others have had a similar experience. Each stumble, every success, has been a lesson, molding us into the professionals and individuals we are today.

Here’s one important point: the heart of my professional devotion to policyholder interests is shared by those aspiring to be the best they can be as public adjusters. It isn’t just in understanding policy clauses or negotiating settlements. It’s in the genuine desire to stand alongside those in need, to be the guiding light in their hour of darkness, and there for them in the halls of legislatures and regulatory offices.

Today’s licensed Florida public adjusters have been fortunate to have Ray Altieri and the other founding FAPIA members in this endeavor. Their support and shared vision have been instrumental in maintaining the ability to stand against those opposed to full policyholder recovery and rights. Every colleague of Ray’s who’s stood with him in the face of adversity 30 years ago deserves applause. Rays’s mission of service and integrity through one’s work should be emulated by all.

To those stepping into property insurance claims or perhaps feeling wearied by its demands, remember this: our work isn’t just about buildings or belongings. It’s about people, their hopes, dreams, and the sanctity of their homes. It’s about restoring not just property but peace of mind. It’s a noble calling to help policyholders, demanding both professional expertise and a compassionate heart.  It was these thoughts that Ray and I shared 30 years ago when starting FAPIA. It almost seems like yesterday.    

Thought For The Day

The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.

—Bob Marley