Photo: Barbara Banks
A Sense of Adventure
Christina “Cina” Welch, FCCI
Rebuilding confidence after an abrupt leadership transition
Christina “Cina” Welch became an adventurer after taking surfing lessons on the California coast 15 years ago. She had just turned 35, and she felt her life was unbalanced. “I was working a lot,” she says. “I wanted to have some different experiences and make my life more well-rounded.”
She decided to do something new every year, starting with a 100-mile bike ride around Lake Tahoe. Since then, she also has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, gone cage diving among great white sharks in Mexico, volunteered at an elephant rescue park in Thailand and tracked mountain gorillas in Uganda, among other things.
“At the end of the day, when I’m lying there on my death bed, I don’t want to look back and just say, Wow, I worked really hard.’ I want to be able say, “Yeah, I worked really hard, but I also did all these other things that made my life amazing.’ ”
Welch grew up in Sarasota as a doctor’s daughter, attended the University of Florida and got a law degree from Stetson University. In 1998, she returned to Sarasota as an in-house attorney for FCCI Insurance Group, a large commercial property and casualty insurer. G.W. Jacobs, FCCI’s CEO at the time, became her mentor and advised her to seek opportunities beyond the company’s legal department.
Over two decades, Welch took on a series of management positions at FCCI with increasing levels of responsibility. In June, she became president and CEO, replacing Craig Johnson, who was ousted after being arrested following a confrontation with police at a local restaurant. Police charged Johnson with battery on an officer, resisting arrest without violence and refusing to leave the restaurant. (Johnson has denied the charges.)
Welch, previously FCCI’s general counsel and chief audit and compliance officer, now must rebuild confidence within the organization while steering it through COVID-19. “We had this thing come out of the blue with Craig. It was a personal incident, but still very impactful to our organization,” she says, adding that she's been hosting weekly meetings online to engage employees. “I think that has gone a long way in getting those who might not have known me so well, despite my long tenure here, to understand a little bit about me and what’s important to me.”
With about 840 employees and 16,200 policyholders, FCCI made a profit of $80.6 million on sales of $930.1 million last year. Welch says sales remain good despite the pandemic, and the company’s claims volume is down. “Through July, we’ve actually written more in premiums than expected,” she says. “So far, we’ve been very, very fortunate.”
For this year’s adventure, she had planned to take a trip to Manitoba, Canada, to snorkel with beluga whales, but those plans got scrapped due to the coronavirus. “It’s been challenging for me as someone who likes to get out and go and travel,” she says. “At the same time, we all need to be smart and take precautions. We have to get through this in the safest manner we can.”
Read more in Florida Trend's November issue.
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