On the Mic with Mike: DBL Center's Ancillary Benefits Account Manager Annette Sperandio Traces DBL Center's Growth Trajectory

DBL Center’s Ancillary Benefits Account Manager Annette Sperandio Talks About Technology, Service, and the Surprising Poster in Michael Cohen’s Office

Ancillary Benefits Account Manager Annette Sperandio joined the team three years ago, at the beginning of its most recent growth phase. Coming to DBL Center from the prestigious Chernoff Diamond firm, Annette was looking for a company where she would be empowered to learn and grow in a pivotal role.

Annette’s feeling that DBL Center was about to “take off,” – combined with a certain propitious poster on the wall of Mike’s office during the initial interview — gave Annette the feeling she’d found her new home.

Mike Cohen: Remember when we interviewed? What did you say?

Annette Sperandio:There were many things that were said. [laughs] One thing I remember is sitting across from you, and seeing that Jaws movie poster, which I thought was a weird sign from my dad. My dad’s restaurant in Eastchester, NY, was called Jaws. And he had a huge following once that movie came out. It was a chops and seafood house. I was like, “What the heck are the odds of that poster being on the wall right now?”

Then I had this feeling that you were going to take off. I felt like that was a good fit for me because I was ready to take off with somebody.

Mike: That’s a good jump-off point. Where have we gone as a team since that day?
Annette: Three years ago in September I joined the DBL Center. We were in a small two-office suite. It was truly a mom-and-pop shop, and I was coming from a prestigious firm. I said, “This is going to be a great opportunity. There’s somebody here who is willing to grow.”

And we did just that. There was a trajectory set. I said tell me what I need to do, and we did just that. We grew a database – from a statutory database to now being a statutory and ancillary benefits database.

We took our knowledge together and we built upon something your dad was very passionate about, his manual ledger. We added our tech-savvy to that whole process: From the audit to the processes, to being able to create a portal, to our carrier portal.

Mike: Explain that for a moment, because you’re in the day-to-day…
Annette: We really started from the ground up. That’s because I saw a lot of influx coming in from Rich’s clients, and your clients, and even some of your dad’s clients coming by the phone, and I said, “We really have to streamline this.” It was too much in the weeds, too much getting stuck.

I knew these carriers had the capability to do online portals, and to make them user-friendly for our clients and brokers alike. Aside from that, we gave them these super-access powers that allowed them to do employee terms and adds and address updates.

We still get involved with retro terminations, but it’s good to be needed. We want to be needed, but we also want our brokers to be proactive on their own. So, we took that information and we started to train our broker community.

Mike: Don’t you feel like we’re in control for the first time? We formed the masses to get them to go in a specific direction, like the pied piper. They’re using the database and the dashboard. That function was missing before.
Annette: Yes. There was an opportunity for us, as a team, to show our customers we now have a service model. That service model was going to make the best use of these things that these carriers had been spending millions of dollars on, but so many people were not using.

Does that mean we don’t help out? No, of course not. We teach them. Then, when they need us for something, we know it’s a true and blue issue.

We have up to 150 brokers at this time using it, with two or more users on it. We get such good, positive feedback because they’re able to do things that they would originally have to [email us about]. Even if they were reaching out to the carriers themselves, that’s a 7- to 10-business day turnaround time.

Mike: And that simplicity shaves a little bit of time and fat off of everybody, internally. If we’re less stressed, the clients pick up on that, the broker’s community. They can feel it.
Annette: Yes. I think people really rely on us to get things done. If you think about the sales process, they come to you or come to me, and they say, “Here’s a census and this is what I’m looking for.”

That’s one process by itself. But then there’s implementation, which is where I take the reins. And then there’s servicing a case that’s been finalized. So, we have this tiered system in place, and they need to know the pecking order and they rely on us to get it done within a certain amount of time.

Mike: And everybody’s in their lane. And all of that – in just three years.
Annette: Yes. When I joined the team there was a start to a system. It was statutory based. And then I felt like the first six months of my being here, aside from learning the system, was changing over from our old system to the new system: adapting, changing, and tweaking it. We’ve done that for well over two years, to a point where now we’re able to give it to our broker community. We’re able to share that with people, so they can see what we’re bringing to the table. Because we’re not just a general agency.

Mike: It’s far beyond… that’s our competitive advantage.
Annette: Yes. There’s service, upon technology, upon being platinum status with our carriers.

We’re always looking to our brokers the best prices for ancillary benefits, and a lot of times, we do that by bundling DBL or TDB. We have relationships with six carriers for ancillary benefits, and nine carriers if we bundle statutory benefits. So, I look at all nine when I’m writing ancillary benefits. We’re always trying to get the best rates and provide the best service.


On the Mic with Mike: Selena Kutschera Talks About PFL, DBL and the Benefits of the Broker Dashboard

Working with the top insurance wholesaler in NY gives Selena a chance to make a difference for brokers

Selena Kutschera, DBL Center’s Director of DBL and TDB never actually applied to work at DBL Center. She joined the family when DBL Center acquired competitor Combined DBL, a competitive insurance wholesaler in NY, in 2014.

How she got the job at Combined DBL, straight out of college with no insurance industry experience, is quite a story.

“I found the job listing in the newspaper,” she tells DBL Center owner and president Michael Cohen. “I begged for an interview, but they had already closed out their interviews because they knew who they were going to hire.”

Kutschera didn’t stop pushing for the interview, however, and, ultimately, got the job. Through her hard work and perseverance, she’s become a leader in wholesale TDB and DBL sales.

It was this tenacity that impressed DBL Center founder David Cohen at the time of the acquisition. “That was the kind of personality my father was looking for,” Michael Cohen recalls. “I remember him saying, ‘I don’t know if we’ll get the deal, but Selena will join us.’ We did make the deal and here we are, five years later.”

Read on to learn how Selena Kutschera is helping DBL Center brokers manage the challenges of PFL and prepare for new opportunities in New Jersey.

Then watch the video to find out Selena’s (second) favorite word, what musician she’s not-so-secretly obsessed with, and what she’d be doing if she wasn’t serving the DBL and TDB insurance needs at one of the top insurance wholesalers in NY.

Michael Cohen: What’s the most exciting thing that we’ve done as a team, in your opinion, since the acquisition?
Selena: The program – the Broker Dashboard. Just coming together and building something, changing the game.

Michael: How has that been an upside for you?
Selena: We can track now. We can track the business. We can track what we’ve lost, what we’ve gained, the brokers, who’s writing, who’s not writing. It just makes it easier.

Michael: Can you describe the process we use when we get together and track retention and new business?
Selena: When we look at our book through the Broker Dashboard, we look at what we can keep out of what’s lost. Our cancellations. We know DBL’s a moving target. Your DBL’s come on, they come off, there are non-pays all the time. That’s the first thing we address, the non-pays. Can we get them reinstated? If we can, that puts business back into the books.

Any time coverage is replaced, we want to find out why it was replaced. Was it something we lost? Did the broker lose it? Did they replace it on us, and why did they replace it? We have to analyze what happened—and why—to get that business back.

Michael: What has the feedback been from the brokers since we implemented the dashboard?
Selena: They’re surprised about their non-pays and what’s cancelled and what’s not.

Michael: Everyone thought Paid Family Leave was going to be a home run, but in the beginning, it wasn’t. Why? And what have you been doing to help overcome those challenges?
Selena: It just added another layer of tracking. Who doesn’t want to pay their PFL [rider]? Who didn’t think they needed Paid Family Leave? They pay the DBL; they don’t pay the PFL. That’s really been the issue. Now, we’re getting the complaints that the insured made the payment, but they only paid a portion of it, or they shortchanged it. So now it’s a matter of them understanding how to pay the bills.

Mike: What do you feel is the biggest dilemma in the overall statutory environment? You’re in the trenches and you’re also involved in commissions. What’s an issue for us that’s outside of our control as a wholesale insurance broker in NY?
Selena: I guess what’s outside of our control is just the insureds making payments. That’s out of our control as an insurance wholesaler in NY. Is the $170 [weekly] benefit in New York State for disability low? Absolutely.

What I do find is some employers want to buy up and some employers don’t want to hear it. I agree with the buying up because the reality is the Paid Family Leave is for somebody else—to take care of a baby, child, or family member—and the disability is for yourself. And if you need to go out on disability, why do you need to go out at a $170, when the PFL benefit is $750 and change? It’s $752 [for 2019].

Mike: Are you excited about what’s happening in Jersey? Explain that.
Selena: Absolutely! Jersey just lifted its signature requirement—there’s no more signature requirement to move to a private carrier. So, it makes it easier for us to write this product, as 98% of it sits with the state right now. And the benefit is going up tremendously.

If you’re shopping for a new insurance wholesaler in NY or NJ or need help writing TDB or DBL, let Selena Kutschera and DBL Center help you. Reach out today.


On the Mic with Mike: Lori Rose Talks about Privatized TDB in New Jersey

New legislation broadens opportunities for brokers and DBL Center is ready

The State of New Jersey legislature recently voted to waive the signature requirements for companies to switch from a state plan to privatized TDB (Temporary Disability Benefits). Previously, brokers needed signatures from 50% + 1 of all employees within a company to switch.

DBL Center reported on the proposed legislation in October 2018, and the bill passed in February 2019. It goes into effect this month.

DBL Center is making sure our brokers are ready for the change, with our Assistant VP of Ancillary Benefits, Lori Rose leading the charge. For two years now, Lori has helped DBL Center expand its brand and presence over the bridges into New Jersey and provide the level of customized service our New York brokers have come to expect. Using TDB as a doorway to sell more ancillary benefits, including dental, life, and vision, Lori has helped brokers increase their book of business.

Now, as it becomes even easier to write privatized TDB, the opportunities for New Jersey brokers expand.
Lori is ready for the challenge – which involves broker education and lots of hustle. The word “can’t” is not in Lori’s vocabulary. She views the new legislation as an opportunity to help her customers – and all New Jersey brokers – earn more with privatized TDB.

Her desire to help others, her willingness to hustle, and her “team player” attitude is why DBL Center President Michael Cohen calls Lori “a hybrid between a ‘fantabulous’ account manager and a superior sales manager.”

Lori sat down with Mike to talk about privatized TDB and also share some fun facts about herself. Watch the video here.

You can learn even more about Lori in Part 1 of Mike’s interview here.

Mike: What are your goals going into January 1, 2020, due to the changes in New Jersey, where privatized TDB will no longer require employee signatures?
Lori: That’s a great question. That signature requirement has always held companies back, because it was difficult to make a change from a state plan to a private plan. With that going away starting in August 2019, all employers will get the experience from the state — it’s called the AC-174.1. Once they have that information, I’m going to be working with my brokers to help their customers privatize TDB.

A lot of it is training and education to teach brokers about selling New Jersey TDB. My goal is showing them how easy it is for them to work with their clients to see if it makes sense to go to a private plan, not only to save the employer some money, but to get better claims service.

Mike: Tell us about how easy it is for employers to switch to privatized TDB.
Lori: Once upon a time, we had an easy TDB program at [insurance carrier] CNA. We were able to guarantee savings to an employer based on the experience on the AC174.1. That has moved forward in the industry from CNA; Zurich took that program, and now other carriers have jumped onboard. That makes it easy for employers to see their savings with privatized TDB. Now, with no signature requirement, it will help brokers write even more business in 2020 for New Jersey TDB.

Mike: What is your favorite word?
Lori: Fantabulous. And it’s a made-up word.

Mike: What is your least favorite word?
Lori: The word can’t.

Mike: I had a feeling you were going to say that. I really did.
Lori: Because everything is do-able. I consider myself a professional problem solver, and I can get anything done. And when I get it done, it’s fantabulous.

Mike: What motivates you?
Lori: I like helping people. I like providing solutions. I find when I can bring value to the table, that motivates me to do a better job every day. Working as a team.

Mike: What turns you off?
Lori: Negativity. I have to be around that positive energy and surround myself with it, and bring that to others, as well.

Mike: What profession other than yours have you always wanted to do?
Lori: Once upon a time, I was a psychology major. I had always thought I’d go into child psychology. I find that even in this business, it’s all about relationships. It’s about talking to each other. It’s about understanding a person, knowing their needs, and really listening. Being a good listener.


On the Mic with Mike: Lori Rose Talks About Ancillary Benefits

DBL Center’s newest family member, Lori Rose, shares the one thing brokers could be doing better.

Most of The DBL Center family works out of the Melville, New York, office. But the newest addition, Associate VP of Ancillary Benefits Lori Rose, works in New Jersey close to her clientele. Helping to expand the DBL Center brand and presence with her knowledge and expertise, Lori focuses on ancillary benefits, primarily with TDB customers in New Jersey.

Lori took the trip to Long Island to chat with DBL Center President and CEO Michael Cohen about her history in the insurance industry and her favorite part about selling ancillary benefits.

Watch the full video here.

Michael Cohen: Tell people how you got here, to DBL Center, and where you came from in the industry.

Lori Rose: I have a long history in the insurance industry on the employee benefits side, starting once upon a time at CNA, doing statutory. New Jersey TDB was the focus. Then I moved into employee benefits, and then moved over to Zurich. From there I moved onto Principal, doing employee benefits – dental, vision, life, disability – and then focusing on the dental / vision with Ameritus.

Mike: What is your favorite product to sell?

Lori: I love selling Dental / Vision, because employees can really appreciate the value of these benefits. I sell a lot of it on a voluntary basis. When I go to an open enrollment meeting with employees, and sit down with them, they can see the value of having a dental plan for themselves and their families, as well as Vision coverage. It’s something they can use every year.

I also like selling voluntary life, and [other] voluntary products. Families don’t realize the financial protection they need and how affordable it is. Very little comes out of their paycheck for them to have a full suite of employee benefits.

Mike: What is the most important thing you see that brokers aren’t doing, that they should be? What advice would you have for them?

Lori: I think brokers could do a better job with cross-selling. They may only write a basic life product and take care of the basic needs. They can appeal to their clients, their accounts, to extend the employee benefits. And that’s where we come in at The DBL Center, helping cross-sell, helping their clients see the value of having a full employee benefits package.

Mike: This is your first time selling on the wholesale level. Is it different?

Lori: It’s different. When I was on the carrier side, I represented one carrier and only their products. Now as a wholesale broker, I can bring solutions to my brokers, to their clients, with preferred carriers, with multiple lines of coverage, and really take care of all their employee benefit needs.

Mike: And how do you feel the broker dashboard has helped your brokers in that process?

Lori: The dashboard has helped my brokers because now they can go onto our website, onto our portal, and look up their accounts. They can track what’s going on, not only with their commissions, but with nearly every aspect of their accounts.

Let’s say they need a highlight sheet or a policy or some information– it’s at their fingertips. They don’t have to wait to go to their particular carrier and get that information. It’s easily accessible to them 24/7. They have access to their accounts and can see what’s going on. That’s what’s great about it. I’ve never had this kind of tool before.


On the Mic with Mike: Michael Cohen Chats with Eugene Puleo

Michael Cohen shares memories and laughs with DBL Center’s longest-running team member.

Eugene Puleo, DBL Center’s first employee, joined the company on April 1, 1983. He made a “splash” from day one when he promptly poured beer over his burger during lunch with founder David Cohen.

Even though Eugene started his tenure with the insurance wholesaler on April Fool’s Day, his dedication and hard work are no joke.

Eugene sat down recently to be the first DBL Center team member to go head-to-head, Actor’s Studio-style, with Michael Cohen. Their rapport is instantly evident on camera. Even if you missed our other DBL Center videos, this one is a must-see.

We’ve excerpted some of the best moments below. But you’ll have to watch the video to hear the burger-and-beer story and to find out why Mike calls Eugene, “the Jimmy Buffet of the insurance industry.”

Mike: When did you start with DBL Center?

Eugene: This past April 1, it’ll be 36 years. Time really flew.

Mike: What do you remember about Dave going off to Hawaii when he was expanding the business there?

Eugene: He wanted to go to another state that was statutory. California was all sold through the state. Rhode Island was all through the state. New Jersey we were dabbling in at the time. He said, “Hawaii, why not?”

Mike: I was just a kid at that time but having you in the office allowed him to make that move…

Eugene: It took him time for him to even let me do commissions. I remember your mom telling him, “Why’d you hire him? Why even have him if you’re not going to trust?”

I think over the years, your father trusted me. He was not a person to trust anybody, and I felt that he trusted me. I was there so he could do those other things, like going to Hawaii, knowing his business was in good hands.

Mike: So then fast forward: How did the industry change from the eighties to the nineties?

Eugene: The eighties just seemed like you could write anything. The Wild West. We were writing like nobody’s business.

Mike: Who was your biggest carrier back then?

Eugene: CNA was starting to phase out, and in the late eighties we began developing a relationship with Zurich. There were things going on with American Accident, then they went out. And Dave approached Zurich. They were right on Rte. 110 in Melville at the time, and Dave called John Beberich to talk. And Zurich became the number one writer.

Mike: Can you talk about how DBL Center has evolved in the past several years, especially since my dad passed away?
Eugene: It’s just [grown by] leaps and bounds. Now, the progression with you coming in, obviously, it was a good turn. You’d come in and give your father ideas. And he was a little stubborn in the beginning. You know. He was your dad. I remember you coming in and saying, “I’ve gotta pay these brokers 22 and a half [percent] because everybody else is paying 20.”

And the whole commissions thing… it was insane. We used to put commissions in manually by hand. Statements from Zurich could be this thick. [Gestures with hands.] It took time to keep track of the delinquents, log all the commissions, and everything was so antiquated. But you were there, giving your father ideas.

Now we can upload a statement a foot thick, and we can do it in a half hour. We couldn’t do it before. It’s been a total 180. Even moving into the new headquarters – I finally got a new office. And I’m still enjoying it after 36 years.


DBL Center History: Words of Wisdom from Founder David Cohen

DBL Center's Founder, David Cohen

As many of us get set to celebrate Father’s Day with cookouts, laughter, and gifts for Dad, the DBL Center family decided it would be appropriate to look back at The DBL Center’s history and, especially, reminisce about founder David Cohen.

At a recent broker appreciation event at Oheka Castle, a few guests suggested we share David’s endless font of wisdom in a blog post. They didn’t know we already had the idea in the works, but their suggestions moved the topic to the top of our list.

We went from “Hey, we should…” to “Let’s do this. Now.” You can watch the video here:

It seemed right to share this post in the week leading up to Father’s Day, as David was not just a role model for his son, DBL Center President and CEO Michael Cohen, but also to the many brokers he worked with over four decades.

These financial tips and valuable wisdom will make you think, make you laugh, and give you a new perspective on growing your book of business in the insurance industry.

“Dave was like the Don Rickles of the insurance business. He tried to make it fun and I’m trying to continue that legacy,” Michael Cohen said, before sharing the anecdotes and adages that he’s used to pick up where David left off in growing the DBL Center into a top insurance wholesaler in the tri-state area.

How did David Cohen get started in insurance?

A lot of people don’t know this, but my father wanted to be a dentist, which I think was probably what most Jewish parents at the time. Back in the ‘60s [they all] wanted their kids to be a dentist or a doctor.

He went the dentist route, and one day he got into a car accident on his way to Stony Brook dental school. The guy he hit was a life insurance salesman who said: “Hey, listen, it was clearly your fault. But I overheard you speaking to the cop and it sounds like you have half a brain because you’re going to Stony Brook’s dental program. I happen to be looking for an underwriter that has a salesman’s mouth, so why don’t you come work for me? I sell life insurance.”

It was that simple. And that life-changing.

After that he sold life insurance for a year until he met someone who introduced him to estate planning; a company called Alexander & Alexander that ended up becoming AON. They asked my father if he had thought about selling DBL, and that’s when he started to segue out of life insurance to get into statutory disability.

What was David Cohen’s best advice?

When he first knew that I would be starting [at DBL Center], his initial advice to me was: “If you think of it like a restaurant, you’re going to grab the mop and you’re going to start from the bottom before you get into the kitchen. There are different levels and you have to work your way up.”

I didn’t want people to think I was coming in like the prince of the kingdom. That was the first obstacle I had to get over: Proving myself to the organization. That was 15 years ago this July.

David Cohen was the king of words of wisdom. What were some of your favorite bits of business wisdom that he shared?

He always used to tell me, “Grow out like Los Angeles, not up like New York.” If you’re too top heavy and you’re in a very short and narrow city where everything is upwards and falls, you can lose a tremendous amount of revenue. Instead, you should focus on your nickels, dimes, and quarters and build your base and foundation that way.

He also shared many tips on finance. What were some of the best?

The rule of 72, which is something we have written about in the past, is about how your money doubles every ten years. We’re trying to tell people that the statutory benefit hasn’t gone up in 30 years. But inflation has, so why don’t you enrich your DBL to mitigate and bridge that gap between DBL and paid family leave? That’s what we’ve been trying to do.

It’s about more than just recruiting new customers, though. What did David Cohen mean when he said, “It’s not what you earn, it’s what you keep?”

It’s all about retention, which is exactly what we are tracking in our broker dashboard. Our brokers receive email notifications twice a month letting them know which policies are potentially going to be canceled for non-pay. It’s one thing to know where you’re growing, but do you really know what you’re keeping or retaining?

That brings us back to a phrase you use a lot: “Nickels, dimes, and quarters make dollars.” Can you explain that one?

It’s the small, steady accounts that build your foundations. That’s why David always said, “Grow out like L.A.” Take care of all your nickels, dimes and quarters, because they all make dollars; they all add up.

Too many people today don’t want that $15,000 dollar commission. They want the $100,000 commission. But my father taught me that all those $15,000 accounts add up to $100,000, and you should always treat a smaller account as if it’s worth a million dollars.

What did David mean when he said, “Stick to sewing?”

Work at what you’re good at. Do what you do best and don’t get outside of the box.

This is exactly why we do statutory disability in New York, New Jersey, Hawaii. My father opened up shop in Hawaii in 1986, and his biggest dilemma there was a cultural difference. He had to convince a Japanese guy to deal with a Jewish kid from Brooklyn in the ‘80s. It was a bit of an obstacle, but he overcame that.

We also do ancillary benefits. group life, long-term disability, dental and vision, that’s it. No major medical, no workers’ comp.

We stick to what we know best at DBL Center and we’ve been doing that since 1976.


DBL Center’s Michael Cohen: New Broker Dashboard App Helps Agencies Keep Business

View the full Broker Dashboard video here.

DBL Center’s proprietary Broker Dashboard app enables DBL Center’s New York-based brokers to track renewals, cancellations, revenue, and commissions on NYS DBL policies with a click.

With 250 brokers now using the Broker Dashboard, and interest from insurance carriers to partner and expand the capabilities of the cloud-based software, DBL Center President and CEO Michael Cohen took a few minutes in his Melville, NY office to explore the history, present, and future of Broker Dashboard. He also hinted at even more advanced technology for brokers and insurance carriers on the horizon.

Where did the Broker Dashboard concept come from?

The broker dashboard evolved mainly from my father, David, Cohen, who was the founder of DBL Center. He always shared two mantras with me: “Nickels, dimes and quarters make dollars,” and “It’s not what you earn, it’s what you keep.”

After he passed away nearly two years ago, I decided to look at his tracking mechanisms with his old-school number two pencil and general ledger, take that ideology, and convert it into our own proprietary digital management system. That ultimately evolved into our broker dashboard, which we’re making available to all our sub agents across New York State.

How has the Broker Dashboard helped DBL Center?

It’s helped us in two ways. The first way has been the growth aspect of it. If I go into a broker’s office who is using the Broker Dashboard, their immediate question to me is, “Why don’t I see exhibit A or this specific policy?”

The answer is: “Well, that’s because it’s not an account we service. But if you’d like us to service that account, you can roll it over. We’ll become the servicing general agent. And you’ll then see it under your broker dashboard.”

The second way has been in helping our brokers to keep accounts and monitor their retention, which results in preserving profits for everyone, including the carriers where we are acting as not only a servicing general agent but a bill collector.  Every two weeks we send out a reminder email to track their retention, so they can realize what they’re keeping. This goes back to one of my father’s mantras: “It’s not what you earn, it’s what you keep.”

In what other ways has the Broker Dashboard helped your brokers?

Tracking all their commissions. We are in a nickels and dimes business, and Paid Family Leave has emphasized that point. The Broker Dashboard helps brokers understand the status of all their policies and determines whether a policy is active or cancelled. I’m staying one step ahead of the insurance carriers by letting our brokers know their clients’ status so they can stay on top of non-pays.

Sometimes, if you lose a DBL policy, you might ultimately lose a workers’ comp policy or a major medical policy.  I’m all about helping our brokers retain their book of business through us. We have thousands of brokers and we currently insure 1.7 million lives.

How many sub-producers are currently using the Broker Dashboard?

Two hundred and fifty brokers are currently using the app. It can be three users per agency, and if they want more than that we unlock it and for a nominal fee, they can have up to 50 users. But the average right now has been between three and five users per agency.

What response have you gotten from the insurance carriers about the Broker Dashboard?

Two carriers, specifically, showed interest in wanting to partner with us through doing some technological advancements to the Broker Dashboard. Those talks evolved into a software company my business partner and I started called Net Revenue Tracker (NRT).
If anybody wants to learn more about NRT, we will do a future video and blog post about how NRT works to track retention and revenue through cloud-based software.

 

 

 


DBL Center Hosts Broker Appreciation Event at Oheka Castle

President and CEO Michael Cohen invites top brokers to celebrate recent successes and a bright future

Long Island, home of DBL Center’s corporate office, is rich with history many residents take for granted.
Oheka Castle in Cold Spring Harbor, for instance, celebrated 100 years in 2019.

It’s been 100 years since the original owner, Otto Kahn, paid to truck dirt to the North Shore to create the highest point of Long Island. From that vantage point, he built a golf course and luxurious castle in the style of a French Chateau on Long Island’s Gold Coast.

DBL Center’s Michael Cohen chose the site for his 2019 Broker Appreciation event. The exclusive cocktail party recognized top insurance brokers, introduced DBL Center customers to the new Broker Dashboard app, and celebrated a beautiful (and long-awaited) spring day on Long Island’s North Shore.

Sean Brady Jr. of Brady Risk Management, Michael Cohen of DBL Center, and George Bucur of MarshBerry (l-r)

DBL Center, like Oheka Castle, is a Long Island success story, making the location especially suitable to celebrate the success of the insurance wholesaler, now in its 43rd year, and its growing network of insurance brokers.

With the sun shining and temperatures in the 70s, the event was held outdoors on a spacious terrace adjacent to the castle’s restaurant and bar. Although largely focused on Long Island insurance agents, brokers came from as far as Westchester to enjoy the ambiance, eat and drink together.

Local artist John Herz, recently featured in Newsday, displayed his artwork, including striking full-color depictions of big cats from his African safari and numerous framed prints.

At the centerpiece of his display was a pencil drawing of DBL Center Founder David Cohen, who once called Herz “the Michelangelo of the Number Two Pencil.”

Several attendees commented that the senior Cohen was looking over the event with pride at how much his son, Michael Cohen, has evolved and advanced the family-owned business in just a few short years.

The event included long-time DBL Center brokers and newcomers to the DBL Center family. Some had passing familiarity with the new Broker Dashboard app, while others had been using it for several months to streamline managing DBL accounts.

DBL Center’s Selena Kutschera and Melissa Gallo of Alliant Insurance Services

This was not a lunch-and-learn event or a seminar. The emphasis was on networking and celebration. “I considered doing a Broker Dashboard demo, but that would have meant holding the event inside,” Michael Cohen said. “Instead, we can be outdoors enjoying the weather and the scenery. This is really just an event to appreciate my brokers and say thank you for their support and loyalty.”

“This is probably the best insurance event I’ve been to in a while. Mike always takes care of his customers and their clients, and his knowledge of the business is amazing,” said Marc Salerno, a long-time client of DBL Center and account executive for Salerno Brokerage Corp in Syosset. “I feel very appreciated.”

Many other brokers echoed Salerno’s sentiments regarding the service the DBL Center team provides, making the event one of mutual appreciation.

“The DBL Center is second-to-none when it comes to the services they provide,” said Jason Cavallo of The Hotaling Group, a New York-based independent insurance firm with a national presence. “They assist in ways no other company could ever match, let alone surpass. They’re the best.”

Brokers new to the DBL Center family also touted the advantages of working with the insurance wholesaler to streamline operations and get the most out of DBL and PFL policies.

“As a property & casualty broker, billing the DBL and PFL policies is cumbersome, and it’s a smaller line-item. It’s helpful to have an expert who wants to get in the weeds with us and make sure that whole process is streamlined,” said Matt Avellino from AC Risk Management in Melville, NY. “We believe in the team, we believe in the staff, and we’re off to a great start in the beginning of this soon-to-be longstanding relationship with Michael and DBL Center.”

While this event was focused on brokers in Nassau and Suffolk counties, The DBL Center hosts quarterly events across the New York tri-state area, including celebrations at prestigious New York City venues. “We’ve gotten great feedback about this event,” said Cohen. “Our next one will be held this summer in New Jersey as we increase our focus on TDB.”

Jason Cavallo of The Hotaling Group and DBL Center’s Michael Cohen

Nancy and John Herz, long-time friends of The DBL Center family

(l-r) Donna Cody, Avanti Associates; Lori Rose, DBL Center; Marc Salerno, Salerno Insurance; Annette Sperandio, DBL Center; Thomas Tubridy, Principal Life Insurance; Chris Metzger, Blair Insurance Agency

 

DBL Center’s Eugene Puleo and Charlie Montana of Montana Agency


Brokers: Are You Following Cybersecurity Best Practices?

If you’re a New York insurance broker, you could be subject to new regulations for protecting your customers’ digital data under the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) Cybersecurity Regulations.

Fortunately, insurance brokers with fewer than 10 employees, less than $10 million in year-end total assets, or less than $5 million in gross annual revenue are not subject to the regulations, which reached their final transition phase on March 1, 2019.

Working Toward Enhanced Cybersecurity Best Practices for All Insurance Brokers

In addition to the new cybersecurity regulations for larger New York brokers, all insurance brokers who accept digital payments of any kind must follow applicable Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standards, established by the PCI Security Standards Council. The organization was founded to develop, enhance, disseminate, and assist with the understanding of security standards for payment account security.

Whatever the size of your brokerage, following basic cybersecurity measures can help you build the trust of your customers, and prevent your company from financial loss and loss of business if there is a data breach.

In short, keeping your customers’ data safe is a significant responsibility that insurance brokers shouldn’t take lightly. If you have questions about cybersecurity in your organization, it’s best to speak with a professional who can help your company undergo a security audit, spot weaknesses in your network and overall IT operations, and help you establish cybersecurity best practices.

These three steps can be a good start.

1. Assess Your Cybersecurity Strengths and Weaknesses

If you accept digital payments from your customers, you can complete a Self-Assessment Questionnaire to determine if you meet PCI Data Security Standard requirements. Checking for things like encryption software and up-to-date firewalls can give you an idea of whether or not your brokerage is in PCI compliance.

“If you’re accepting credit cards, debit or digital payments, you must be in compliance with up-to-date firewalls and other security standards to protect your customer data,” says Sunny Naqvi, President of CMIT Solutions of Mid-Suffolk, the award-winning technology firm that helps keep The DBL Center’s data safe.

It’s important to note that the PCI self-assessment only applies to your customers’ payment data, not other important customer information stored on your server. It is also not a complete measure of your organization’s security. PCI controls should continue to be implemented as part of your company’s overall security strategy.

2. Undergo a Security Audit

A security audit, performed by IT and networking professionals, ensures that your company is following cybersecurity best practices. Your auditors should be able to identify vulnerabilities in your network that could lead to a breach and offer a plan of action to fix those security risks.

Naqvi notes that firewalls and anti-virus software should all be up-to-date, and traffic on your network should be limited to only necessary users. Multiple security layers can ensure employees can access the documents they need while keeping customer data secure.

3. Employ the Right Training for Cybersecurity Best Practices

Ultimately, your cybersecurity tools are only as strong as the people using your network.

“Whenever you have to tighten the security, you have to take into account the weakest link in the security chain, which is the human factor,” says Ahmad Mirza, network engineer at CMIT Solutions.

“Training employees how to avoid phishing emails, how to recognize the latest cybersecurity scams, and how to protect their passwords should all be covered as part of cybersecurity best practices,” Mirza says.

He recommends password manager applications to make it easy to set secure, hard-to-crack passwords and then login to all your applications with a single key.

Just be sure to choose a password manager you can trust, with multi-key encryption and multi-factor authentication. “Your passwords should be strong,” Mirza says, “but however you’re storing your passwords should be even stronger.”

How Secure Is Your Brokerage Against a Cyber Attack?

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PFL Year Two: How to Keep Employees Engaged with Enriched DBL

Paid Family Leave has changed the modern workplace for many New York businesses. In a blink, New York companies became more family-friendly and flexible, setting standards with one of the most generous PFL policies in the country.

But what about employees left behind while their co-workers took leave to bond with a newborn or care for an ill, aging, or disabled family member?

As a New York broker, you have a unique opportunity to help your clients improve retention and company morale by addressing the demographic that is least likely to need family leave benefits but may be left behind to pick up the slack for employees on leave.

For companies who already had a generous maternity policy in place, it is probably business as usual. But companies who have never provided maternity leave for employees may have faced some challenges through the first year of PFL, which insurance brokers can help them address.

“New York businesses should explore company operations and their existing employee benefits packages to develop a plan to help keep all employees, not just those who may be eligible for PFL, engaged and happy with what the company offers,” says DBL Center President Michael Cohen.

Who’s Covering the Job Duties of Employees on PFL?

When an employee informs announces they will be taking PFL – or when managers first discover that an employee or their spouse is expecting a baby – it’s time to develop a contingency plan for those who will be picking up the slack.

Planning ahead is crucial so employees don’t feel put upon. In most cases with PFL coverage – as opposed to DBL which is available when an employee is injured or ill – employers have plenty of warning. They may not know the exact date a worker will go on leave. But the expectant parent can begin training their co-workers two-to-three months before the expected due date or adoption day to minimize frustration and ensure the employees understand how their new role will mesh with their existing duties.

Consider Who’s Using PFL – And Who Isn’t

Last year, 76.7% of people who used PFL through DBL carrier Shelterpoint took leave to care for a newborn baby or newly adopted child. Another 23.2% used it to care for a disabled, ill, or aging family member, and 0.1% used it to hold down the fort while a military spouse was deployed.

Now, let’s look at who is less likely to take PFL benefits. In general, baby boomers, millennial or GenX couples not planning to have children, and (for now) most GenZ employees just entering the workforce won’t have any need for PFL.

While Baby Boomers and child-free couples may not seem like a large percentage of the workplace, let’s consider some recent statistics:

• People aged 55+ took 1.4 million of the 2.9 million new jobs in 2018
• 39.2% of Americans ages 55-and-up were working in 2018
• 65.5% of 55- to 64-year-olds are still in the workforce, and 19.6 percent of 65+ are still working, too
• Boomers and the Silent Generation (born between 1925 and 1945) made up 27% of the workforce in 2017, according to PEW Research

Boomers possess massive amounts of knowledge and experience in the workplace. Because of that knowledge and experience, they are well-equipped to help pick up the slack when their co-workers take PFL. “It’s important to make employees feel appreciated for their extra work, and there are many ways to do this,” Cohen says. “Enriching mandatory DBL can give employers the most bang for their buck and provide employees with an important benefit that will give them peace-of-mind if they become ill or injured.”

Enrich NYS DBL Coverage

The first step is for brokers to help customers examine their existing employee benefits packages. Current mandatory NY State DBL coverage only gives employees a maximum of $170 per week for 26 weeks. Very few people can live on that in New York, especially in the New York metro area.

Employers can enrich DBL coverage to pay up to 50% of an employee’s salary up to $850 per week up to 26 weeks. This puts DBL coverage on pace with PFL. In fact, enriched DBL can exceed current PFL pay-outs, which max out at 55% of an employee’s average weekly salary for 8 weeks, with a maximum benefit of $746.41 per week.

Your customers can also add Hospital Cash indemnity insurance through Shelterpoint to give hospitalized employees who are collecting DBL an additional $165 per day ($240 in NY metro areas) with no cap for the number of continuous days of coverage. Patients staying in Skilled Nursing Facilities receive the same benefit level, limited to a stay of 5 consecutive days.

“Compared to neighboring New Jersey, New York’s statutory disability benefits package is lacking,” Cohen says. “Enriching DBL benefits has always been a good idea to help attract top talent and increase retention. In light of PFL, it’s more important than ever before. It’s up to brokers to educate employers, creating a win-win situation, increasing commissions for brokers while creating happier customers.”

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