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Vela: On Course to Turn Opportunities Into Successes

David A. Jordan, President, Vela Insurance Services, LLC

Posted on 02 Feb 10

We recently spoke with David Jordan, president of Vela Insurance Services, LLC, a company of W.R. Berkley Corporation (WRBC), and the underwriting manager of Gemini Insurance Company. A WRBC subsidiary, Gemini is rated A+XV by AM Best and A+ by Standard and Poor’s. Specializing in Commercial Casualty and Miscellaneous Professional Liability insurance, Vela is headquartered in Chicago with underwriting offices in Chicago, Illinois; San Diego, Solvang, and Walnut Creek, California; Radnor, Pennsylvania; and a claims office in Omaha, Nebraska. Established in 1996, there are 76 employees at Vela with an experienced and long-standing track record, essential in today’s market.

This year marks David’s 30th anniversary in our industry, where he spent 21 years with AIG, ten of which were spent with Lexington in Boston. Last year, he assumed the position at the helm of Vela, where he has steered the firm through some exciting changes, including opening two new offices, adding seven new people to the staff, beefing up the Miscellaneous Professional Liability operation with additional underwriters, rejuvenating the firm’s Products Liability portfolio, and starting up new programs, including the heavy construction segment with an emphasis on crane and rigging risks and developing a specialty construction practice known as Commercial Wrap-ups.

“We weren’t going to let the challenges of the economy or the insurance market inhibit us from creating viable markets for our wholesalers,” says David. “We moved ahead with plans to expand and provide key programs for our clients.”

Vela underwrites 11 different programs in four segments: Construction, Manufacturing, General Casualty and Miscellaneous Professional Liability. The Construction programs includes coverages for Commercial General Contractors and Subcontractors; Residential Homebuilders, General Contractors, and Subcontractors; and Specialty, which includes Residential Wrap-ups, Commercial Wrap-ups, Heavy Construction, Large Accounts, Energy Contractors, Large SIR/Deductible programs, Deductible/SIR Buyback Programs, and “Idle Asset” programs.

Vela’s Manufacturing program includes domestic and imported Products Liability, Manufacturers General Liability for Premises/Operations – Ongoing Operations and Vacant/Idle Plants, Specialty Manufacturing for Discontinued Products and Deductible/SIR Buyback programs. Its General Casualty program covers Premises/Operations risks focusing on Service/Retail/Wholesaler-Distributors.

Professional Liability includes: Miscellaneous E&O for 50-plus eligible classes, Consultants E&O, Technology E&O, Property Managers E&O, and Real Estate E&O.

When discussing Vela’s business philosophy and approach, David explains that partnering with its wholesale brokers to create relationships designed to provide sound solutions for complicated risks has contributed to the company’s success. “We are committed to meeting our customers’ needs by providing superior products and services and utilizing an innovative underwriting approach. We pride ourselves in our surplus lines expertise and listen, are responsive, and aim to convert opportunities into successes.”

A common thread that runs through all of Vela’s programs is that each offers broad coverage and flexible underwriting. “We are known for our extensive library of forms and endorsements, so every risk that we write gets custom-tailored instead of a policy that is off-the-shelf. And our underwriters have an appetite for risk,” says David.

Vela’s uniqueness also stems from the fact that it operates its own claims organization. “Unlike other underwriting managers that outsource claims to TPAs, we have a dedicated claims group that handles Vela claims exclusively… this provides us with a competitive advantage,” says David.

Completely paperless in all its processing on both the underwriting and claims side gives Vela an edge. “We are technology-driven,” says David, “and have real-time access to all records so our client servicing is augmented with our ability to respond quickly. That real-time connection makes a difference.”

Vela’s marketing strategies include regular phone conferences with its brokers and in-person visits. “Nothing can replace the human element,” says David. In 2009, Vela’s website was redesigned to enhance its services and be even more responsive to its brokers. About one to two e-mail campaigns a month go out to wholesalers, advising them about Vela’s programs and services. “We also attend industry events, such as NAPSLO, PLUS, IRMI, and AAMGA. And this year we’ll be attending CIWA – California Insurance Wholesalers Association. We’re always looking to get the word out about our programs.”

To find out more about Vela, please visit the company website. You can also call David at (312) 706-9820 or via e-mail at