Insurance Journal - 04/30/14
By Don Jergler
Call it a little luck or a good timing – maybe a bit of both– but an insurer focused on high net worth individuals has added California to the list of states in which it does business at a time when the number of wealthy households in the Golden State has reached pre-recession levels.
According to Phoenix Marketing International’s Global Wealth Monitor, in 2013 there were 777,624 households in California with $1 million or more in investable assets. That exceeds the 663,394 households with $1 million in investable assets in 2006.
California ranked 11th in millionaires per capita in 2013, with 6.04 percent of households worth $1 million and up, the report shows. Maryland (7.70 percent), New Jersey (7.49 percent) and Connecticut (7.32 percent) were the top three.
Wealth has returned, and so has luxury home values. A total of 39,175 homes were sold for $1 million or more in 2013, that’s up 45.1 percent from 2012 and it was the highest number sold since 42,506 in 2007, according to San Diego-based DataQuick Information Services.
“The growth of the number of million-dollar households I think is emblematic of the economic growth and the good weather in the state,” said Mark Galante, chief marketing officer of the Privilege Underwriters Reciprocal Exchange Group of Insurance Cos.
PURE, which specializes in high net worth indivduals, has been expanding across the country. California will be the carrier’s 48th state when they begin offering policies in the next week. The company received its license from the California Department of Insurance on Jan. 17.
They are launching in May with a direct mail and advertising blitz.
To help it build up high net worth clientele in California the company is turning to insurance agents with big books of business in that arena.
“We are likely to add somewhere between 50 to 100 agents across the state in the next year or so,” Galante said.
The company started as a single-state carrier in Florida and moved up the coast into Carolina, the Tri-State area and beyond. Following the launch in California in May the company will be launching in Alaska and Idaho.
Galante said being in California will help the company gain a stronger footing in the other Western states.
“We’re at the point now here it just makes perfect sense to complete the footprint by adding California and some other states,” he said.
The type of agents that the carrier is looking to work with will be those who already work in the high net worth space, according to Galante.
“In the screening process we look for agents and brokers that have a successful track record of serving successful individuals and families,” he said.
While there are other high net worth carriers in California, Galante thinks there’s room for more.
“We think there’s a tremendous opportunity for PURE to add value in the marketplace,” he said, adding that “California’s marketplace is big.”
PURE is compiling a dataset of household prospects to which they plan to conduct mail marketing that is based on homes that are at least $1 million in value and at least 4,000 square feet.
“That number alone is over a quarter of a million households,” Galante said.
Galante said the company plans to compete in California by introducing “a higher level of service and a greater number of solutions” to address some of the insurance needs that are unique to Californians, such as earthquake coverage.
According to Galante, with the current offering consumers must make an “all or nothing” choice when purchasing earthquake coverage.
“We think the consumer should be able to have some more flexibility,” he said.
PURE offers limited earthquake insurance with the pricing reflecting a lower level of risk, or flexibility with deductibles, Galante said.
Earthquake coverage will be offered as an endorsement to the home policy, with two coverage options: basic and broad.
Basic comes at a lower price point, but is not as comprehensive as the broad form.
The broad form includes an “Agreed Value Coverage Option,” enabling a policyholder to purchase less than the full replacement cost of their home, and deductible options ranging from 5 percent to 25 percent of the dwelling limit.
PURE is also coming into California with its wildfire mitigation program, which includes consultation with a risk manager and prevention advice, and emergency response services that may include removal of flammables and application of PhosCheck fire retardant to vulnerable areas of the property.