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PURE makes a high-profile entrance into Mass. insurance market with Super Bowl ads

January 7, 2011

The Patriot Ledger - 02/08/11
By Jon Chesto

As a Massachusetts native, Ross Buchmueller was crushed when the Jets beat the Patriots on Jan. 16 in Foxboro. But as the CEO of an insurance company that’s starting to sell policies in the Bay State, the Pats’ defeat opened the door for a great opportunity.

You see, the demand for local ad spots during the Super Bowl telecast dropped precipitously once the Patriots walked off the field for the season. Buchmueller tells me that the Fox affiliate in Boston presented his company, Privilege Underwriters Reciprocal Exchange (a.k.a. PURE), with a great deal for a two-ad package, and PURE jumped at the opportunity.

For many people, the Super Bowl ads represented the first time they had heard of this specialized insurer (which was started by Buchmueller, an ex-AIG exec, and others in 2006). After largely being concentrated in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut area and in the Southeast, PURE launched a national expansion last year. The company is now licensed to sell insurance in 33 states, and is actively marketing insurance products in 15. The White Plains, N.Y.-based company became licensed to do business in Massachusetts last summer, and it began marketing its products in this state in December. The Super Bowl promotion was just one part of an ongoing, multi-faceted media blitz in the Boston media market.

The mutual insurer specializes in pricey homes (generally valued at $1 million or more) as well as jewelry, boats and artwork.

Buchmueller says PURE has mastered the difficult art of evaluating high-value homes in coastal areas, and he expects to fill a void left by many other property-and-casualty insurers who have abandoned Cape Cod, the Islands and parts of the South Shore. He says homeowners in those areas are paying far too much money for their premiums, because other insurers rely on exaggerated risks to set rates. As a CEO at a mutual company that sets aside excess profits for its members, Buchmueller likes to point out that he is freed from the demands of trying to satisfy the shareholders who invest in publicly-traded insurers. He says that also allows PURE to offer more competitive rates than its competitors on these high-value homes.

Buchmueller says PURE saw a spike in calls and website traffic almost immediately after the Super Bowl ads ran. But if the company can really live up to its promise of providing a competitive insurance option for coastal homeowners, he won’t need Super Bowl ads to sell PURE policies around here.