Pioneers in the Affinity Insurance Market: Pearl Companies


The following is one of four articles in a series about pioneers in the affinity insurance market who are looking to the future through the lens of the past. Learn how they got started and their vision for the future of the affinity insurance sector:

About Pearl Companies

Jack Pearl founded Pearl Companies in 1954, first selling individual life and disability policies to the farming community. It was initially a small operation with just a team of two. This meant it would take a great deal of initiative and ingenuity to grow the business — and neither trait was in short supply when it came to Jack. Back then, he would travel down old farm roads and leave a flyer with his name, picture, and information in farmhouse mailboxes. Later, he’d retrace his steps and knock on doors, and the residents would invite him in because he looked familiar.

Around 1957, Pearl Companies began expanding its product line to other industries, namely attorneys, and the Illinois State Bar Association became the organization’s first large account. This led Jack to develop what would become one of the earliest professional insurance policies for lawyers. That same year, Pearl Companies also developed its first partnership with a major carrier — CNA. The company has been growing ever since, adding new services, products, and technology with each passing year. At the same time, Pearl Companies focuses on its core mission: protecting what’s truly important. The company knows that people have a basic human need to live and work with confidence and is dedicated to helping its customers feel secure.

Today, Jack’s son Gary Pearl serves as chairman and CEO of Pearl Companies. He’s been with the organization since 1985, so he has been involved firsthand in the company’s growth and innovation. He also served as president of PIMA in 2000 and has a deep understanding of the affinity insurance market, as well as insights into the future of the insurance sector.

The Future of the Affinity Insurance Market

Gary sees changing consumer expectations as one of the biggest challenges facing the affinity insurance market today. Most everyone expects to be able to buy everything they need online — including insurance. What’s more, they want the process to be quick and easy (think buying from Amazon, for example).

However, the complexity surrounding insurance product delivery could be a sticking point for some companies when it comes to meeting this expectation, and especially those who haven’t started the process of adopting digital offerings. Without the right talent, technology, and resources in place, affinity insurance agencies will struggle to develop new affinity insurance solutions that can meet consumer expectations and maintain a strong customer experience in the digital space.

Complicating matters further is compliance, explains Gary. Even large, tech-forward companies are finding that the requirements around data security and privacy take time and attention away from their growth initiatives. That’s not to mention the costs associated with remaining compliant.

Additional personnel has helped Pearl Companies overcome these compliance obstacles. The company has an internal security team that meets every two weeks to review the latest requirements and processes needed to remain compliant and keep customers safe. However, compliance — as insurers know well — is different in each state, and every carrier might have its own preferences around compliance requirements. Gary says it will take an aggressive approach for those in the affinity insurance market to ensure all of their processes are on the up-and-up as the shift to digital increases.

The Next Generation of Insurance Industry Leaders Can Push the Affinity Market Forward

Gary attests that technology will continue to play a huge role in the sector, particularly around communication. The next generation of insurance industry leaders needs to lead the charge to meet the on-demand information needs of today’s consumers. No longer can companies rely solely on email to respond within 24 hours. Customers want immediate responses via text or on-site chat functions, so put the necessary resources in place to accomplish this.

Gary also recommends a focus on communication during the onboarding process. Communication will be an important skill for anyone working at an affinity insurance agency, so new members of the industry need thorough training. The goal is to foster change agents who can effectively relay information to customers and team members alike.

PIMA can be a great asset in this area, notes Gary. After all, without the right information, you can’t effectively communicate with stakeholders. PIMA offers educational opportunities where members can expand their knowledge of trends in the affinity insurance market and the current landscape, such as the state of legal and regulatory issues in insurance. In addition, PIMA offers numerous networking opportunities to help companies grow their partnerships and learn from others in the industry.

As Gary puts it, PIMA understands the business. Although Pearl Companies was a charter member when PIMA was founded, he doesn’t believe he’s being biased when he says PIMA has been a huge part of the company’s success. It all goes back to the relationships members gain and the information they learn that allow them to move their companies — and the association market as a whole — ahead.

If you’re interested in learning more about how PIMA can help your company grow and connect with other insurance industry leaders, contact us today.

Published on October 12, 2021.

PIMA® (Professional Insurance Marketing Association®) is a member-driven trade association focused exclusively on the group-sponsored benefits market.