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Interview: Western World Programs Broadening Its Program Business Appetite, Continuing Tradition of Stability

By Annie George

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Posted on 11 Aug 2011

This week we’re featuring Storefront Western World Programs, a division of Western World Insurance Group, a specialty E&S company formed in 1964. Based in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, Western World Insurance Group is rated A+ by A.M. Best. Western World Programs, formerly known as Westco Programs, was formed more than a decade ago to provide solutions for a broad range of specialty niche classes.

We spoke to William (Bill) Rinaldi, Senior VP – Underwriting and Marketing of Western World Programs, about the company’s ongoing commitment and support of program business, its expanded appetite in the space, and what distinguishes it from others. Bill joined Western World in 2000 to help launch the platform and during the last several years the Division has expand from a Casualty focus to one that also includes broader capacity in Property and Auto and Professional Liability lines. 

“Our long history and experience as a company that grants binding authority to our General Agent partners aligns very well with our growth in Program distribution.” 

Program business is a key growth area for the company, with a comprehensive and long-term approach to the space. “We don’t measure results quarter by quarter,” explained Bill, “but rather manage our business with a longer term view and market cycles.”  While some competitors may enter and exit the program arena we’re in it for the long haul. Stability and steady underwriting practices along with long-term relationships with quality program managers enable our partners to rely on us for today and tomorrow.”

During the last five years the company has restructured its divisions, rebranded the program business division as Western World Programs, broadened its program appetite, and simplified its distribution, while also investing significant resources in technology as part of its overall commitment in this market. “Looking at ease of use as a primary initiative as a company is key for us,” said Bill. “We have web-enabled rate, quote, bind initiatives that are used throughout all three of our underwriting areas (Western World Programs, Western World Binding, and Western Brokerage). We’ve also made strategic pushes in broadening our program offerings, enhancing our ability to write package business, Property, and Auto, as well as increasing our capacity in Professional Liability and broadening our distribution in all areas,” said Bill.

Western World Programs has several specialty underwriting areas: Outdoor Recreation and Amusement, Professional Liability and Social Services, Hospitality, and Contracted Services (from artisans, contractors to home builders to classes that range from security guards, fire damage restoration, pest control).

The company’s smaller size allows it to offer unmatched personalized attention to their partners. “We tailor our program processes based on underwriting needs,” said Bill. “We’re not requiring our partners to utilize an inflexible system, our rate-quote-bind technology is customized and viewed from the outside in, so that a program manager comes to us and they define their needs rather than forcing them into a system that may be incompatible with their needs.”

What’s more, Western World Programs has a unique approach to claims handling for its programs. “We have a dedicated claims unit focused solely on our program business. They get to know our agents very well, the programs, and the affinity groups and trade associations that we’re underwriting, which facilitates a much higher degree of communication and rapport with our program managers and with our mutual customers,” said Bill. In giving program managers and the insureds direct, online access to a claims team that understands the unique characteristics of their business, the claims process is much more efficient.

When looking for new programs, Western World Programs employs a business model built on expertise. “A program manager that comes to us with an opportunity doesn’t necessarily need to have a big book of business,” explained Bill, “which is a distinct advantage with us. Even through the hard market when many markets have lofty minimum premium requirements, we consider smaller programs ($1-5 million) with growth potential.

“We’re not looking at a lot of premium to make a commitment, but what we do look for is expertise – class knowledge and longevity within the program. Our partners range from small boutique agencies that really understand a class of business through the more established program administrators that are looking for a long-term relationship with a quality market.

“What it comes down to is the people themselves, the program managers. We look for that demonstrated expertise in the class and association with the affinity group that program managers are underwriting. We view this as a cornerstone of success. You have to be able to select the right partners and develop your business from that point,” said Bill.

The majority of the programs written are distributed nationally, although regional or state specific opportunities are also considered. “The reach of the program depends on the individual program manager and the opportunity that is brought to us,” said Bill.

“Our approach is that when a program manager brings us a unique class of business, we will work to develop program parameters around their needs. We respect the intellectual knowledge that they bring to the process. Our focus is to maintain long-term relationships with a partner who understands the market cycle and together with us will make adjustments in programs.”

If you’re interested in discussing a specific program with Western World Programs, just contact Bill at 201-847-2871; or Bryan Gonder, who is responsible for new business development, at 201-847-2741.


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