Management Team

Larry G. Swets Jr., Chief Executive Officer

Larry G. Swets, Jr. has served as our Chief Executive Officer since November 2020 and as a member of our board of directors since November 2013. Mr. Swets has over 25 years of experience within financial services encompassing both non-executive and executive roles. Mr. Swets founded Itasca Financial LLC, an advisory and investment firm, in 2005 and has served as its managing member since inception. Mr. Swets also founded and is the President of Itasca Golf Managers, Inc., a management services and advisory firm focused on the real estate and hospitality industries, in August 2018. Mr. Swets has served as Senior Advisor to Aldel Financial Inc. (NYSE: ADF), a special purpose acquisition company co-sponsored by Fundamental Global, which has entered into a definitive business combination agreement with Hagerty, an automotive enthusiast brand offering a specialty automotive insurance platform, since March 2021. Mr. Swets is a member of the board of directors of GreenFirst Forest Products Inc. (TSXV: GFP), a public company focused on investments in the forest products industry since June 2016; Harbor Custom Development, Inc. (Nasdaq: HCDI) since February 2020; Insurance Income Strategies Ltd. since October 2017; Alexian Brothers Foundation since March 2018; and Unbounded Media Corporation since June 2019.

Previously, Mr. Swets served as a Director and Chief Executive Officer of FG New America Acquisition Corp. (NYSE: FGNA), a special purpose acquisition company which merged with OppFi Inc. (NYSE: OPFI), a leading financial technology platform that powers banks to help everyday consumers gain access to credit, from July 2020 to July 2021. Mr. Swets served as Chief Executive Officer of GreenFirst Forest Products Inc. (TSXV: GFP) (formerly Itasca Capital Ltd.) from June 2016 to June 2021. Mr. Swets served as the Chief Executive Officer of Kingsway Financial Services Inc. (NYSE: KFS) from July 2010 to September 2018, including as its President from July 2010 to March 2017.He also previously served as a member of the board of directors of Limbach Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: LMB) from July 2016 to August 2021; Kingsway Financial Services Inc. (NYSE: KFS) from September 2013 to December 2018; Atlas Financial Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: AFH) from December 2010 to January 2018; FMG Acquisition Corp. (Nasdaq: FMGQ) from May 2007 to September 2008; United Insurance Holdings Corp. from 2008 to March 2012; and Risk Enterprise Management Ltd. from November 2007 to May 2012. 

Prior to founding Itasca Financial LLC, Mr. Swets served as an insurance company executive and advisor, including the role of director of investments and fixed income portfolio manager for Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Company, formerly known as Kemper Insurance Companies. Mr. Swets began his career in insurance as an intern in the Kemper Scholar program in 1994. Mr. Swets earned a Master’s Degree in Finance from DePaul University in 1999 and a Bachelor’s Degree from Valparaiso University in 1997. He is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization and holds the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.

Hassan R. Baqar, Chief Financial Officer

Hassan R. Baqar has served as our Chief Financial Officer since August 2021 and as a member of our board of directors from October 2012 to May 2015. Mr. Baqar has over 20 years of experience within financial services focused on corporate development, mergers & acquisitions, capital raising, investments and real estate transactions. Mr. Baqar has served as the founder and managing member of Sequoia Financial LLC, a financial services and advisory firm, since January 2019. Mr. Baqar has also served as Chief Financial Officer of Insurance Income Strategies Ltd., a Bermuda based reinsurance company since October 2017; Director of GreenFirst Forest Products Inc. (TSXV: GFP) (formerly Itasca Capital Ltd.), a public company focused on investments in the forest products industry since August 2019; Chief Financial Officer of GreenFirst Forest Products Inc. from June 2016 to December 2020; Director of Fundamental Global Reinsurance Ltd., a Cayman Islands reinsurance company since June 2020; and Director and Chief Financial Officer of Unbounded Media Corporation since June 2019. Mr. Baqar served from July 2020 to July 2021 as Chief Financial Officer of FG New America Acquisition Corp. (NYSE: FGNA), a special purpose acquisition company which merged with OppFi Inc. (NYSE: OPFI), a leading financial technology platform that powers banks to help everyday consumers gain access to credit, in July 2021. Mr. Baqar is also the Chief Financial Officer for Aldel Financial Inc. (NYSE: ADF), a special purpose acquisition company co-sponsored by Fundamental Global, which has entered into a definitive business combination agreement with Hagerty, an automotive enthusiast brand offering a specialty automotive insurance platform. Previously, he served as Vice President of Kingsway Financial Services Inc. (NYSE: KFS) (“Kingsway”) from January 2014 to January 2019 and as a Vice President of Kingsway’s subsidiary Kingsway America Inc. from January 2010 to January 2019. Mr. Baqar also served as Chief Financial Officer and Director of 1347 Capital Corp., a special purpose acquisition company, from April 2014 to July 2016, when the company completed its initial business combination to form Limbach Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: LMB). By virtue of a management services agreement between 1347 Advisors LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Kingsway, and United Insurance Management, L.C., he also served as the Chief Financial Officer of United Insurance Holdings Corp. (Nasdaq: UIHC), a publicly held property and casualty insurance holding company, from August 2011 to April 2012. Mr. Baqar’s previous experience also includes Director of Finance at Itasca Financial, LLC from 2008 to 2009 and positions held at Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Company (a Kemper Insurance company), a diversified mutual property-casualty insurance provider, from June 2000 to April 2008, where he most recently served as a senior analyst.

Mr. Baqar earned an MBA from Northeastern Illinois University in 2009 and a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Business Administration from Monmouth College in 2000. He also holds a Certified Public Accountant designation.

Brian D. Bottjer, Chief Accounting Officer

Brian D. Bottjer, CPA has served as our Chief Accounting Officer since August 2021. He has served as our Senior Vice President since December 2019 and our Controller since September 2014. He has also served as a member of the Board of Directors and Controller of Maison Insurance Company from June 2015 to December 2019. Prior to joining our company, Mr. Bottjer served as Principal Financial Officer and Controller of Biovest International, Inc., a biotechnology company focused on developing a cure for various types of cancer of the immune system. Mr. Bottjer has also served in various financial and regulatory reporting roles for a number of other publicly traded companies in insurance, financial services, and retail including Stewart Title Guaranty Company, Allstate Insurance, Raymond James Financial, and the Home Shopping Network. Mr. Bottjer is a certified public accountant licensed in the state of Florida, and obtained his bachelor’s of science degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Board of Directors

D. Kyle Cerminara, Chairman

Mr. Cerminara was appointed to our Board of Directors in December 2016, became Chairman in May 2018, and served as our principal executive officer from March 2020 to June 2020. Mr. Cerminara has over 20 years’ experience as an institutional investor, asset manager, director, chief executive, founder and operator of multiple financial services and technology businesses. Mr. Cerminara co-founded Fundamental Global in 2012 and serves as its Chief Executive Officer.

Mr. Cerminara is a member of the board of directors of a number of companies focused in the reinsurance, investment management, technology and communication sectors, including Aldel Financial, Inc. (NYSE: ADF), a special purpose acquisition company co-sponsored by Fundamental Global, which has entered into a definitive business combination agreement with Hagerty, an automotive enthusiast brand offering a specialty automotive insurance platform, since April 2021; GreenFirst Forest Products Inc. (TSXV: GFP) (formerly Itasca Capital Ltd.), a public company focused on investments in the forest products industry, since June 2016; BK Technologies Corporation (NYSE American: BKTI), a provider of two-way radio communications equipment, since July 2015; Ballantyne Strong, Inc. (NYSE American: BTN), a holding company with diverse business activities focused on serving the entertainment and retail markets, since February 2015; and Firefly Systems Inc., a venture-backed digital advertising company, since August 2020.

From July 2020 to July 2021, Mr. Cerminara served as director and President of FG New America Acquisition Corp. (NYSE: FGNA), a special purpose acquisition company, which merged with OppFi Inc. (NYSE: OPFI), a leading financial technology platform that powers banks to help everyday consumers gain access to credit. He was also appointed chairman of GreenFirst Forest Products Inc. from June 2018 to June 2021. Mr. Cerminara has served as the Chairman of Ballantyne Strong, Inc. since May 2015. He also previously served as its Chief Executive Officer from November 2015 through April 2020. Mr. Cerminara was also the Chairman of BK Technologies Corporation from March 2017 until April 2020. He also served on the board of directors of Limbach Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: LMB), a company which provides building infrastructure services, from March 2019 to March 2020; Iteris, Inc. (Nasdaq: ITI), a publicly traded, applied informatics company, from August 2016 to November 2017; and Magnetek, Inc., a publicly traded manufacturer, in 2015. He previously served on the board of directors of blueharbor bank, a community bank, from October 2013 to January 2020, and he previously served as a Trustee and President of StrongVest ETF Trust, which was an open-end management investment company, from July 2016 to March 2021. Previously, Mr. Cerminara served as the co-chief investment officer of CWA Asset Management Group, LLC, a position he held from January 2013 to December 2020.

Prior to these roles, Mr. Cerminara was a Portfolio Manager at Sigma Capital Management, an independent financial adviser, from 2011 to 2012, a Director and Sector Head of the Financials Industry at Highside Capital Management from 2009 to 2011, and a Portfolio Manager and Director at CR Intrinsic Investors from 2007 to 2009. Before joining CR Intrinsic Investors, Mr. Cerminara was a Vice President, Associate Portfolio Manager and Analyst at T. Rowe Price (Nasdaq: TROW) from 2001 to 2007, where he was named amongst Institutional Investor’s Best of the Buy Side Analysts in November 2006, and an Analyst at Legg Mason from 2000 to 2001.

Mr. Cerminara received an MBA degree from the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia and a B.S. in Finance and Accounting from the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, where he was a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, an NCAA Academic All American and Co-Captain of the men’s varsity tennis team. He also completed a China Executive Residency at the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing, China. Mr. Cerminara holds the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.

Ms. Hayes has been Chair of Hayes International Advisors, LLC since 2013, where she counsels industry and institutional leaders on a range of economic, political and regulatory matters. She served as an expert for the International Chamber of Commerce's World Business Summit in 2008. Ms. Hayes served as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative and Ambassador to the World Trade Organization (WTO), a post to which she was nominated by President Bill Clinton and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate, from November 1997 through August 2001, during which time she served as Acting U.S. Trade Representative from January through March 2001. From 2001 through December 2006, she held the position of Deputy Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to which she was approved by the 184 Member States. At the conclusion of her appointment at WIPO, she served as Senior Advisor in Hogan & Hartson LLP's Geneva, Switzerland office. Confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 1996, Ms. Hayes served from 1996 to 1997 as U.S. Chief Textile Negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) in Washington, D.C. From 1983 to 1992, Ms. Hayes served as Chief of Staff for two members of the U.S. Congress. Ms. Hayes received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Georgia, an honorary degree as Doctor of Humane Letters from the College of Charleston and an honorary degree as Doctorate of Outstanding Public Service from the University of South Carolina.
E. Gray Payne, Major General, USMC (Ret), has served as a member of our Board of Directors since May 2018 and brings over forty years of leadership experience, both in the military and in the private sector. His Marine Corps experience included eight commands ranging in size from the Company level to a Marine Logistics Group, consisting of over 9,600 Marines and Sailors. He also served as Commanding General of the Marine Logistics Command and as Director of Facilities and Services for the Marine Corps, responsible for 28 installations and an annual budget exceeding $5.5 billion. His experience in the private sector includes eighteen years as a management consultant working with over two hundred clients in the areas of financial management, operational improvement, organizational development, strategic planning, and mergers and acquisitions. Positions held include Director of Marketing, Division Head, COO, CFO, President and CEO of various companies ranging in size from $2.5 million to $100 million in annual revenue. He is a prior Chairman of the Board of the Marine Corps Association and Foundation, and currently serves as a Director on the Boards of BK Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: BKTI), VetCV, and the National Wildlife Refuge Association. General Payne received a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from North Carolina State University and a Masters degree in Strategic Studies from the Army War College. A member of the National Association of Corporate Directors, he has also earned the Professional Director designation from the American College of Corporate Directors.

Larry G. Swets, Jr. has served as our Chief Executive Officer since November 2020 and as a member of our board of directors since November 2013. Mr. Swets has over 25 years of experience within financial services encompassing both non-executive and executive roles. Mr. Swets founded Itasca Financial LLC, an advisory and investment firm, in 2005 and has served as its managing member since inception. Mr. Swets also founded and is the President of Itasca Golf Managers, Inc., a management services and advisory firm focused on the real estate and hospitality industries, in August 2018. Mr. Swets has served as Senior Advisor to Aldel Financial Inc. (NYSE: ADF), a special purpose acquisition company co-sponsored by Fundamental Global, which has entered into a definitive business combination agreement with Hagerty, an automotive enthusiast brand offering a specialty automotive insurance platform, since March 2021. Mr. Swets is a member of the board of directors of GreenFirst Forest Products Inc. (TSXV: GFP), a public company focused on investments in the forest products industry since June 2016; Harbor Custom Development, Inc. (Nasdaq: HCDI) since February 2020; Insurance Income Strategies Ltd. since October 2017; Alexian Brothers Foundation since March 2018; and Unbounded Media Corporation since June 2019.

Previously, Mr. Swets served as a Director and Chief Executive Officer of FG New America Acquisition Corp. (NYSE: FGNA), a special purpose acquisition company which merged with OppFi Inc. (NYSE: OPFI), a leading financial technology platform that powers banks to help everyday consumers gain access to credit, from July 2020 to July 2021. Mr. Swets served as Chief Executive Officer of GreenFirst Forest Products Inc. (TSXV: GFP) (formerly Itasca Capital Ltd.) from June 2016 to June 2021. Mr. Swets served as the Chief Executive Officer of Kingsway Financial Services Inc. (NYSE: KFS) from July 2010 to September 2018, including as its President from July 2010 to March 2017.He also previously served as a member of the board of directors of Limbach Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: LMB) from July 2016 to August 2021; Kingsway Financial Services Inc. (NYSE: KFS) from September 2013 to December 2018; Atlas Financial Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: AFH) from December 2010 to January 2018; FMG Acquisition Corp. (Nasdaq: FMGQ) from May 2007 to September 2008; United Insurance Holdings Corp. from 2008 to March 2012; and Risk Enterprise Management Ltd. from November 2007 to May 2012. 

Prior to founding Itasca Financial LLC, Mr. Swets served as an insurance company executive and advisor, including the role of director of investments and fixed income portfolio manager for Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Company, formerly known as Kemper Insurance Companies. Mr. Swets began his career in insurance as an intern in the Kemper Scholar program in 1994. Mr. Swets earned a Master’s Degree in Finance from DePaul University in 1999 and a Bachelor’s Degree from Valparaiso University in 1997. He is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization and holds the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.

Mr. Wollney has served on our Board since April 2015. Since December 2010, Mr. Wollney has served as the President, Director and Chief Executive Officer of Atlas Financial Holdings, Inc. (“Atlas”), a NASDAQ-listed commercial automobile insurance company. More than 10 years ago, Mr. Wollney co-founded Avalon Risk Management, Inc., an insurance broker, and served as President from 2002 to 2008 and has more than 24 years of experience in property and casualty insurance. During his tenure in the industry, Mr. Wollney has held executive positions at both insurance companies as well as brokerage operations. Mr. Wollney is a MBA graduate of Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management with a concentration in finance and management strategy and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Illinois.
Dennis A. Wong has served as a member of our Board of Directors since August 2015. Since 2005, Mr. Wong has served as the owner of and a consultant with Insurance Resolution Group, a consulting firm focused on providing strategic advisory and financial consulting to domestic and international companies with insurance or insurance related operations. On October 13, 2020 Mr. Wong was appointed to the Board of Directors of Harbor Custom Development, Inc. (Nasdaq: HCDI), and serves as the chairperson of its audit committee. From 1997 to 2005, Mr. Wong worked in a variety of corporate roles with Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Company, formerly known as Kemper Insurance, including as Chief Financial Officer of its international operations. From 1991 to 1997, Mr. Wong worked as a public accountant with KPMG LLP, where he specialized in accounting and operational advisory services for the insurance industry. Mr. Wong obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics with an Accountancy Cognate from the University of Illinois. Mr. Wong is a Certified Public Accountant.