During the last year, Distinguished Programs, one of the largest real estate program managers in the country, has launched a few new products and acquired a web-based platform in addition to undertaking new initiatives. We caught up with the company’s president and COO, Carla Vel, who has been with the New York-based firm for 16 years, to discuss all that’s new. Distinguished Programs is licensed in every state, and writes over $115 million in premiums. In addition to its headquarters in New York City, the company has offices in California, Colorado, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
“About a year and half ago, we decided to broaden our offerings from our real estate program to include other classes of businesses,” says Carla. “We took the knowledge we have with our flagship Umbrella program for real estate and created a new product for museums. We worked with one of our brokers who has the experience and expertise in this class of business, along with our underwriters, to put together a program. We looked at this as an interesting niche to get into.”
The Umbrella Liability for Museums insurance program, underwritten by Great American, includes a limit of up to $50 million for eligible classes. These classes include not-for-profit museums, such as Art, Historical, Archaeology or Natural History, Military and War, Science and Space, and Botanical Gardens, and Specialized or Children Focused.
Distinguished Programs is involved with the American Association of Museums (AAM), and since launching the national program, has written a number of accounts in several locations around the country. Plans include expanding the niche in the type of museums they entertain to cover aquariums and art galleries.
Distinguished Programs also recently launched a product for small retail businesses, such as delicatessens, taverns, hair salons, laundromats, and so forth, located in urban areas. Launched in New York State about six months ago, this niche is a natural extension for Distinguished Programs because of their successful Property and Liability program for small urban multi-family buildings.
"We’re very excited about this program,” says Carla, “as our roots are in real estate and in New York City – in urban settings where you find old buildings. Many of the same brokers who write five-, six-, seven-story masonry walk-ups are also writing the neighborhood retailers. We’re very comfortable insuring this type of risk, and it’s a way for us to cross-sell another program. Once we get our sea legs with this product in New York, we’ll expand the program to the other urban areas we serve, such as Chicago, Denver, and Philadelphia.”
In 2011, Distinguished Programs acquired GreenLine Underwriters, a Dallas-based program administrator focused on delivering insurance products through web-based technology. Today that platform is called DP Express, and enables agents and brokers to quote, bind, and issue policies seamlessly in a straight-through process. “It takes about five minutes to do on-line quoting and issue policies in the markets we offer,” explains Carla. “We’ve experienced great success with our new Builders Risk Express program and are working on bringing many of our other programs onto an express platform.
In addition, Distinguished Programs has a joint venture partnership with Ironshore, Inc. called IDP Holdings. IDP Holdings is an acquisition vehicle, formed in 2010, which combines the program management expertise of Distinguished Programs with the underwriting capacity of Ironshore. The objective of IDP Holdings is to invest in small to mid-sized program managers and managing general underwriters that write specialty insurance programs underserved by the market. Preferred lines include professional liability, general liability, and products liability. “Our joint venture with Ironshore provides us with a great opportunity to continue to grow our business through acquisitions,” says Carla. “Through IDP Holdings, Distinguished Programs can enter into new business segments and continue to expand our product mix.”
Carla explains that when looking at acquisition possibilities the culture of a company is very important. “We’re innovative and creative and quite thoughtful in our approach. We take risk, but we’re also conservative, to make sure the fit is right for us.”
In looking ahead, Distinguished Program is also currently redesigning their logo and building a new website, which will be launched within the next six months. “We’re modernizing our look, improving our site’s navigation, among other key features.”
For more information about Distinguished Programs and its products, please visit: http://www.distinguished.com/Index.aspx. You can also contact Carla at 212-297-3102 or via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.