Insignia, an invitation-only enhanced lifestyle concept, is now available in the US. The London-based membership service launched in 1996 as a travel-related service and payment card provider. It has since grown into an all-encompassing luxury lifestyle management group with a global presence, and now a base in New York City.
Membership is by invitation only for individuals who represent extraordinary spending power. The cap allows the membership to maintain exclusivity and deliver personal attention to each member.
Business Traveler recently spoke with Richard Lewis, President Insignia USA; Managing Director, New Markets, about what’s in store for business travelers who want to put some juice into their leisure time.
Describe Insignia and the services provided members can expect:
Insignia is a highly proactive and anticipatory lifestyle management service that provides its members with a dedicated Personal Assistant (PA) available 24/7 service, who has no more than 10 clients. The Personal Assistant is supported by a large team of luxury curators across travel, shopping, dining, events and access, amongst other specialties.
How did Insignia come to the US after 23 years of operation in Europe?
We have teamed up with travel investment firm Certares to enter the US marketplace and bring our highly unique and global leading lifestyle business to the States. Our belief was the US market and consumers are searching for and deserving of the level of service in which we have been so successful in delivering across Europe for the last 23 years. The first six months of being fully operational have already outperformed our expectations, and the member feedback has been incredible as to how our team goes about delivering not just our members’ expectations, but the above and beyond as well.
What sets Insignia apart from other lifestyle management platforms?
There’s a number of truly unique differences, a first example being our-employee-to-member ratio. Although the member will only ever interact their own dedicated Personal Assistant, across the typical request from start to finish, there will be at least four Insignia team members involved in completing and enhancing each aspect. From the PA, to the luxury expert in each field (travel, shopping, dining, etc.), to our quality control and financial teams, we ensure excellence is provided on every possible level.
Staying one step ahead of member requests is a quality we have prided ourselves on for 23 years. Our control team monitors every request just ahead of real time to ensure that everything is cross checked and, should there be any potential problems, we can catch them and ensure the journey/event/experience goes as planned without the member ever knowing an issue or disruption had occurred.
Our teams are also constantly thinking proactively for each member as well, i.e. if they are at lunch with a group of friends, they are already thinking of suggestions as to where they may wish to go for a cocktail afterwards. Staying a step or two ahead always elevates any experience – a service which is our signature.
“Bleisure” (mixing business travel with leisure) is becoming more and more common with business travelers tacking on an extra day or two to sightsee and experience the local culture of their destination. Can you provide example of ways Insignia help to enhance the “bleisure” experience of discovering new cities for their members traveling on business?
This is a regular occurrence with our member base, as often they are looking to immerse themselves further with the local environment that they are in. We try to offer a variety of suggestions from the ‘safe’ bets to the real ‘in the know’ local spots.
Often C-Level executives traveling far distances (both international and domestic) will bring a significant other to experience the destination. How does Insignia approach these types of itineraries for both travelers?
The PA who looks after each member will often know their spouses, families, and/or significant others very well. The PA will have a real understanding of all party’s preferences and what they like to see or experience while traveling. With the PA’s only having a maximum of 10 clients, they become an incredibly valuable yet invisible companion to the members. This innate understanding of their dining, hotel and airline preferences, as well as what type of experiences they prefer, lends to creating itineraries specific to every member and their guests.
Since being in business for 20+ years, Insignia must have several long-standing partnerships with top luxury brands. Can you give a few examples, and explain how these partnerships are best utilized when planning trips to new places for their members?
We have a vast network of luxury brands that we have outstanding relationships with, which allows us the ability to offer exclusive access and added value and enhancements to our members. We are finding that our newer luxury supplier base allows us to exceed our member requests as well, such as coordinating VIP memberships to The Private Suite at LAX or fast-tracking memberships at certain elite private clubs in LA and NYC. We have also been able to curate a list of experiences that no one else can offer within the sporting environment in soccer, F1 racing, football and golf – to name a few.
Golf during business travel is a seemingly common request and activity. What other types of leisure activity requests is Insignia seeing from their members when traveling for business? What steps does Insignia take to ensure the highest-level experiences for these activities?
While golf does tend to be a universally common request, we are increasingly seeing requests as to how travelers can give back to the local community, and how can they impact the local community footprint in a positive way. We are also receiving an increase of requests for the curation of experiences that create lasting and impactful memories of the destination, some examples are pasta making in Italy in an authentic setting, or an immersive and truly up close ‘Team Principal’ experience during an F1 race. We always try to see how we can elevate the experience to ensure it will truly make memories for life.
How does the 1 percent prefer to conduct business meetings when traveling? Board rooms, restaurants, yachts, etc.?
We’ve observed that when it comes to business interactions, the top 1 percent is primarily focused on networking with other like-minded individuals, and more often than not that will take place in a more relaxed atmosphere such as at dinner at the hottest restaurant, enjoying a day cruise on a yacht or mingling poolside at a luxury hotel. We see quite often there are certain events and destinations at certain times of year where our business focused membership base tends to head towards in which important introductions take place, connections are made, and ideas are traded. The ideas and actions are often then handed to their teams to pick up on and action in a more business-like setting.
Any other trends you are seeing surrounding the “mixing business with leisure” experience? Is this part of the overall work/life balance movement for your membership?
When we look at our European client base, most of their travel, even to destinations such as the South of France, Monaco or the Alps for ski season, often crosses over between business and leisure. The trend is actually the member base asking us for the suggestions of where the world’s elite and most influential are traveling to each season so they can be part of it and not left out of the action.
Why is Insignia an important resource for any C-Level executive who travels frequently?
A C-Level executive often has a work PA, however that work PA doesn’t always have the resource and knowledge about how to make the lifestyle requests. That’s where our team of experts come to the aid. Insignia PA’s save time, give real and up-to-date knowledge and become an integral part of our member’s lives.