In 2006, Martin Hartley, Ross Buchmueller, and Jeff Paraschac left AIG Private Client Group to launch PURE Insurance. Their goal was to create a better insurance experience for high-net-worth consumers. To do that, they came up with a deceptively simple idea: focus exclusively on serving and delighting policyholders.
PURE (Privilege Underwriters Reciprocal Exchange), which is the only US insurer focused exclusively on the high-net-worth segment, is policyholder-owned and dedicated to creating an exceptional member experience. By combining this dedication with technical innovations and a highly engaging and supportive culture, PURE now serves more than 60,000 members and has grown by more than 40 percent annually the past nine out of ten years. Its members are just as dedicated to the insurer, as evidenced by a world-class Net Promoter Score of ninety-one for members who have filed a claim.
“Members tell us that they’ve never had such a positive experience and that they’re telling their friends about us,” says Hartley, PURE’s chief operating officer. “They have massive enthusiasm for what we’re building.”
Among the innovations that have helped drive this momentum is the PURE Situation Room, a microsite and alert service that provides members with warnings when dangerous weather is on the way. The site also provides seasonal tips for protecting homes and other assets and notifications about product recalls. Additionally, the company offers PURE CyberSafe Solutions to help protect members from online privacy risks.
As a policyholder-owned reciprocal insurance company, PURE is committed to returning underwriting profits back to members. Rather than trying to maximize the difference between premiums collected and claims paid, the company has allocated $19.5 million to subscriber savings accounts (SSAs) since its inception.
“We’re transparent with all our financials, which demonstrates how we’re dedicated to fair pricing and doing what’s best for members,” Hartley says.
Because PURE members often have unique and complicated insurance needs—such as the family that opens their personal sports facility to local youth teams for training or the nonprofit board member who needs specialized liability coverage—the company takes a proactive and customized approach to risk management. In California, for example, it assesses properties for safety features like automatic seismic shutoff valves that close gas lines in the event of an earthquake. If weaknesses or shortcomings are revealed, the team immediately contacts vendors that can make needed repairs or install equipment at the member’s request.
The company also uses third-party data. For example, PURE uses soil moisture content in dry environments to analyze fire risk and aerial photography to examine rooftops in hail-prone areas. “We move seamlessly from offering innovative and creative advice to fully executing our solutions,” Hartley says.
To simplify billing monthly premiums, PURE developed a credit card-style system that sends a single comprehensive monthly statement summarizing all policies, premiums, and transactions that can cover properties, vehicles, and artwork in multiple locations. This replaces individual statements that used to be sent for each policy.
A great deal of effort goes into facilitating and reinforcing PURE’s dedication to members. At the claims level, this begins with licensed adjusters taking the first notice of loss, rather than outsourcing this to a call center like most other insurers.
“If you’re in the middle of a crisis, you don’t want to wait days to speak with someone who can help you,” Hartley says. “We get everything confirmed and start the process immediately. It’s a completely different conversation than speaking with someone who simply takes notes and has someone else call you back.”
The company’s roughly twenty thousand claims have also benefited from ongoing employee training in the PURE EQ Program, which focuses on emotional intelligence. It has helped to create a staff that is highly sensitive and empathetic to each other and to members. For example, a member who lost a vacation home to fire was very concerned about their grandchildren who were coming to visit two weeks later and wouldn’t have life vests to go out on the water. Although there were other more immediate details to address, the claims agent sensed how important the life vests were and made arrangements to have proper-sized vests sent to the temporary rental property.
“It’s relatively simple to teach the technical aspects of taking care of a claim,” Hartley says. “We go further and recruit and train people with an affinity for understanding what’s necessary on an emotional level in situations where they usually end up doing more listening than talking.”
This kind of attentiveness is responsible for PURE agents making sure that games and toys are provided to help members’ children feel more at home in temporary housing. In one circumstance, PURE’s exemplary service actually took the form of a punch line. When asked if there was anything more that could be done to help take care of their claim, a member joked,“You could send jelly donuts.” The company had a box of donuts hand-delivered the next day.
It’s all part of an evolving business strategy that adapts to numerous changing factors, like a national increase in the number of drivers and auto losses or climate change that will alter flood patterns and the occurrence of extreme weather events.
Hartley, however, knows there are certain elements that will remain constant. “We view ourselves as being eleven years into building a one-hundred-year company,” he says. “We’ll always be looking for service innovation and product improvements to delight members and reinforcing a culture that empowers our people to do great things.”
Training for the future
The insurance industry faces a looming talent gap as roughly 25 percent of its most experienced professionals are expected to retire within five years. PURE is addressing that issue with its annual summer training program. The twelve-week session provides classroom instruction, collaborative group exercises, and mentoring to new hires before they receive additional on-the-job training for full-time positions in underwriting, claims and risk management, corporate strategy, and other critical business functions. Millennials currently represent about 50 percent of PURE’s staff and remain with the company 92 percent of the time. They are the professionals who are dedicated to serving PURE policyholders well into the future.