Peter N. De Leonardis
“Humble” and “hungry” are two words that have been key to the continuous improvement and growth that has been demonstrated throughout Peter N. De Leonardis’ 10-year career. Along with the competitive edge, personal drive, and exemplary work ethic instilled in him by his father, Peter J. De Leonardis, and grandfather, Nicholas P. De Leonardis, these qualities have led to a remarkable amount of success. In fact, before reaching the age of 30, Peter was named vice president and portfolio manager at New Era Life Insurance Companies, headquartered in Houston, Texas. Since 1990, the company’s multiple branches have provided quality insurance and financial products in conjunction with exceptional customer service. Within his role at New Era, Peter specializes in high-yield fixed income and works with team members to provide health plans, life insurance, and annuities. His unique perspective, hybrid of “old school” and “new school” mentalities, and unorthodox strategies have not only made him popular within the financial world, but have also led to Peter’s recent victory as one of GCIF’s Top 100 Global Leaders in Finance. He recently met with us to share more about his career journey and current role, and the advantages New Era has to offer.
Let’s begin with a bit more about your company. What types of products are currently available to clients?
New Era offers quality products for every stage of our clients’ lives: 24-hour accident coverage, annuities, critical illness insurance, health indemnity plans, dental insurance, final expense life insurance, GAP insurance, and Medicare supplement insurance. Our products are also backed by a commitment to keeping our clients’ insurance premiums stable and as low as possible.
How did you get your start at New Era?
My aunt, Mary Frazier, is one of the founders as well as the executive vice president and chief operating officer. Knowing her helped me to get in the door of the company, but I also had to work much harder to earn respect. I started at the bottom as an intern while finishing my business and finance degree at the University of St. Thomas, and I climbed the ranks from there. Two years later, when one of the other analysts went on maternity leave, our president and CEO, Dr. Bill Chen, asked me to step in as her replacement. That was my first step up the corporate ladder. I’ve always believed that if you stay focused and work hard, you will eventually see results. This has certainly been true in my own experience.
How long did you work as an analyst, and what did that role entail?
I was an analyst for four years, doing a lot of fixed income reporting and research. New Era has departments that handle mortgage loans, so my primary focus was on the bond and equity side. During those years, I worked with other analysts, the portfolio manager, and the current CFO, Paul Mundy. Then, when the company wanted to integrate more investments and accounting, I was promoted to senior investment analyst—working more closely with the senior vice president, who was also a certified public accountant and controller.
How did working as a senior investment analyst lead to your current role as vice president and portfolio manager?
Shortly after I became a senior investment analyst, Paul and I discovered a lot of “hiccups” in the bond carrying values due to the residual effects of the financial crisis of 2007-2008. When I began looking at the different angles from which we could address the issues, I decided to utilize the company’s Bloomberg software. I knew we needed to monitor our portfolio closely, so I plugged every security New Era owned into the software, and then created a variety of worksheets and systems that would enable us to stay on top of everything. As I went through this process, I found a new angle, which harnessed significant gains. Once these were added to our portfolio, I began to get more work and gain more trust from others within the company.
Has New Era been impacted by the COVID pandemic?
Yes, but the change has been positive as I saw the pandemic as another opportunity to prove myself as a professional. Last year, at the onset of COVID, I received a statement about a Delta Airlines bond I had purchased back in October 2019. When I saw that the price had decreased, my first thought was that it was a glitch, but then it hit me—the price was dropping to non-investment grade due to the pandemic. So, I quickly put together a presentation for the CEO, showing the specific bonds New Era had recently bought, as well as some other securities that I knew would be beneficial. I also explained that certain industries would experience a lull but that they would come back tenfold. I needed to get everyone involved, and it worked!
How did you go about using bonds to benefit the company?
I created a pandemic bond portfolio, totaling over a $100 million par and with a median yield of 11.1%, which gave New Era annual earnings of over $14 million. This is the highest annual investment income that has ever been, so I was ecstatic to have been successful in positioning both the company and myself in a much better place—especially in the middle of a pandemic. All the hard work that went into the project also led to my promotion as vice president and portfolio manager.
After spending the last decade working your way up in the company, what do you think sets New Era Life apart from its competitors?
The company is unique because of the phenomenal people it employs. Our corporate culture was founded upon the core values of being consumer oriented, flexible, innovative, loyal, reliable, and visionary. Some of the agents for New Era are not only superstars themselves, but they have also built up the reputation of the company. A few years ago, I set out to start my own business with a friend, and although it didn’t work out, I learned how difficult it is to beat the competition. It requires discipline, knowledge, dedication, and a strong team made up of the right people. At New Era, we are fortunate to have all the above.
Peter N. De Leonardis
Vice President and Portfolio Manager
New Era Life Insurance Companies
Facebook: Peter De Leonardis
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