Leadership in Finance: Triple-S Management’s Juan Jose Román

During a time when the economy and credit markets were shaky, the CFO helped transform his company from a closely held, non-profit insurance group to a publicly traded corporation.

Juan Jose Román, the finance chief of Triple-S Management Corp., has been steeped in the insurance business since he was an auditor working in KPMG’s San Juan, Puerto Rico office in the late 1980s. While with the Big Four firm, Román specialized in audits of insurance industry clients. Then in 1996, after eight years in public accounting, he made a logical jump. He moved to Triple-S Inc., where he became the vice president of finance for a division known as Triple-C, the company’s Medicaid unit.

Triple-C was launched only six months before Román, now 43, joined the company. “I spent a lot of times with our actuaries, developing the formulas and schedules and [claims] reserve for the group,” noted Román. That operational experience paid off. He eventually was tapped to run Triple-C, and then, in 2002, was named CFO of Triple-S Management Corp., the holding company that comprises Triple-S Inc., life insurer Triple-S Vida, and Triple-S Propiedad, a property and casualty (P&C) carrier. With operations based in Puerto Rico, Triple-S generates $1.7 billion in revenues for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2008.

Triple-S was started in 1959 by a group of physicians and dentists who wanted to offer patients another choice in their insurance plans. Before Triple-S, most insurance programs in Puerto Rico focused on hospital visits, rather than the treatment received by doctors and dentists. “The doctors wanted to create a market for their services,” Román said recently.

Despite being formed as a profit-making venture, Triple-S shareholder-owners at first operated the insurer as if it were a non-profit. Increased access to care by doctors and dentists, rather than earnings, was its primary goal. In 1965, the company officially declared its intention to become a non-profit, a prerequisite for becoming the Blue Shield licensee it eventually became in that year.

Still, it wasn’t until 1979that Triple-S was granted tax-exempt status. Then in 1997, it restructured, creating a for-profit holding company. In 2003,  it negotiated with the Puerto Rican government to terminate its tax-exempt status, resulting in a $52 million payment. The payment was part of a settlement with the commonwealth’s Treasury Department involving the accumulated statutory income that was distributed by Triple-S Inc. to the holding company, Triple-S Management. The holding company went public in December 2007. 

Román’s route to the C-suite has been what many would call typical. But the company’s last six years have been anything but ordinary. As finance chief, Román guided Triple-S through a transformation that converted a closely-held, non-profit organization via an initial public offering into a New York Stock Exchange-traded insurance powerhouse that serves 30% of the population of Puerto Rico with its managed-care services.

Triple-S Roman“OTTI is probably one of the biggest challenges any CFO has to deal with because the rules are not specific regarding what is meant by ‘other than temporary.’”
Triple-S Management CFO
Juan-Jose Román

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