Skyscraper Insurance Talks with DBL Center President and CEO Michael Cohen

DBL Center President and CEO Michael S. Cohen recently appeared as a guest on the Poza podcast The Risk Taker, hosted by Chaim Berkovic, founder and president of Skyscraper Insurance. The podcast focuses on business leaders who take on unusual challenges, step outside their comfort zones, and achieve success.

During the 40-minute interview, Berkovic and Cohen discussed how DBL Center was founded more than 45 years ago by David Cohen and how he brought privatized short-term disability benefits to Hawaii. You’ll learn how Michael Cohen got into the family business, and the many lanes Cohen has now expanded into as The DBL Center leads the charge in terms of technology in the statutory disability industry.

Below, we share a few highlights from their conversation. But it’s worth tuning into the full podcast here.

You’ll hear the two business leaders talk about connecting with clients of different cultures, taking risks in sales, and treating every account as if it’s a $1 million deal.

Cohen on Educating Brokers on Short Term Disability Coverage

As risks go, selling DBL is one not many insurance brokers take on. Cohen told Berkovic, “They don’t think there’s enough money in it. They don’t know what to ask. They’re not asking the right questions. I know how to help brokers like you get in the door to ask the right questions about disability insurance. Everybody asks about major medical, worker’s comp, or personal lines, but right in the middle between that is the state-mandated short-term disability. The introduction of paid family leave has just blown that door wide open and raised awareness about statutory benefits.”

Cohen on Leveraging Technology for Increased Sales

Although his father David Cohen, laid the groundwork decades ago, Michael Cohen never wanted to be viewed as just “the owners’ son.” In the past several years since taking over the company, Cohen catapulted The DBL Center not just to the top of Google rankings through his team’s marketing efforts, but to rapid growth and expansion across the New England states.

Today, The DBL Center services not just New York, New Jersey and Hawaii but also Connecticut and Massachusetts, which recently implemented statutory paid family and medical leave policies. Cohen helps brokers tap into markets they may not have considered by hiring experts in those regions, and offering a streamlined process for selling and managing statutory benefits.

“I keep it simple,” he told Berkovic. Through the Broker Dashboard, The DBL Center can show brokers the direct-billed DBL and ancillary policies and help them track renewals, cancellations, and commissions. While DBL and PFL may not be what most brokers think of as “big-ticket sales,” these products provide a foot in the door for larger policies. “The DBL Center – and our proprietary Broker Dashboard – are the conduits to helping brokers’ retention,” Cohen said.

Cohen on Absence Management

Recently, Cohen further expanded The DBL Center to offer absence management solutions to brokers’ clients. “We are offering solutions for when workers are taking intermittent leave on a standalone basis, especially in companies with over 50 lives. Most places require you have another plan, like LTD. We can do standalone policies and tie it into DBL,” he said on the podcast.

Adding yet another responsibility to his list wasn’t easy – and it wasn’t a decision Cohen took lightly. But he knew it was necessary to scale The DBL Center to the next level and provide the best service to his clients. “One of the toughest things about my job is that I feel like the brokers are my children. How do I hug all of them at one time? I don’t feel like there’s enough of me to consult and teach everybody. So, I hire people who are experts in their region or their field. I stay in my lane. And the lane has become filled – it’s now one lane, two lane, three lane, and HOV.”

Listen to the full podcast here: The Risk Taker: Skyscraper Insurance with Michael S. Cohen of The DBL Center


No Healthcare? Why The DBL Center Specializes in Statutory and Ancillary Benefits

You’ve probably heard the expression, “Stay in your lane.” One of DBL Center founder David Cohen’s favorite quotes was “Stick to sewing.”

Both expressions relate to finding what you’re good at, honing your skills and knowledge in that area, and not wasting time on diversions outside that field. Find the right people to support you in your business who can provide the skills you don’t have – or don’t have the time to pursue.

The DBL Center has always held to this adage, using it to build a national sales force specializing in specific regions or specific areas of coverage.  We used it to build a top-notch outsourced marketing team that works in collaboration with our president and CEO Michael Cohen to keep our website one of the top-ranked in the industry. We used it to create an IT and cybersecurity department that, in the future, will be offering tips to our brokers to help ensure their systems and security are where they should be as we enter 2022.

Most importantly, for 45+ years, we have focused on building our niche as a wholesale/General Agency for statutory insurance and ancillary benefits in a growing number of states.

When David Cohen launched The DBL Center in 1976, he chose a nascent niche that didn’t have many competitors. DBL and TDI were statutory benefits, which should have made for an easy sale. But the real challenge was customer education. No one knew they needed these benefits in New York and New Jersey. Shortly after growing in the New York tri-state area, Cohen took the business to Hawaii, becoming the only TDI insurance company on all the islands.

But: Why Not Offer Health Insurance Policies?

Over the years, many of our brokers have asked why we don’t write health insurance. Impressed by the rates we negotiate with top carriers and our concierge-level customer service, our brokers would love to write all their policies with us, giving them a one-stop shop for employee benefits.

But the nuances of the health insurance industry would require stepping out of what we’ve known for 45+ years. It would require hiring specialists in those fields and diverting our attention away from the areas where we excel.

The carriers in the health insurance field are, largely, different. The policies differ dramatically. And the products, themselves, are more complex than anything we offer today.

Our Expertise In Statutory and Ancillary Benefits Can Increase Your Profitability

By staying in our niche, we can continue to provide concierge-level service in a highly focused field. Our brokers don’t have to know everything about DBL and TDB coverage, because we do. They can turn to us with any questions and to be their full-fledged back-office staff.

When the New York State governor introduced Paid Family Leave in 2017, The DBL Center was on the cutting edge of the news. We were able to get up-to-speed quickly and guide our brokers through one of the most confusing closing periods in our history. We collected censuses, billed premiums, and wrote the necessary riders to DBL policies in New York. All while giving our brokers opportunities and tools to upsell customers to enriched DBL to provide a better benefits package to all employees – not just those who were parents or expecting to become parents soon.

We even provide a platform enabling our brokers to easily track commissions, cancellations and renewals, and we can email reports on demand or on a weekly or monthly basis so they can follow up with their clients.

Our expertise in statutory benefits and ancillary benefits and now, voluntary worksite benefits, enables our brokers to focus on health insurance and other products, knowing that statutory benefits virtually sell themselves. Ancillary benefits, too, are an in-demand addition to benefits packages right now to improve employee morale and combat high quit rates.

Branching Out in Ways that Make Sense

However, through partnerships with other companies, The DBL Center is now in a position to make referrals for healthcare coverage. Through our vast industry connections, we can now introduce you to wholesale insurance agencies and carriers that share our philosophy and values, which we’ve upheld since 1976.

We have always guided our brokers to the best rates and coverage for their clients seeking statutory and ancillary benefits. Now, we can help you grow your business and increase commissions in other ways when it comes to employee benefits and human capital management or absence management.

Hang on, because 2022 is going to be an exciting ride for all of us. We’re glad to have you along for the journey.

New York Disability Insurance and Voluntary Employee Benefits: The Workforce Retention Solution Your Clients Need

Is enriched New York disability insurance the way to keep high-level workers in tech, finance, and other competitive fields?

There’s a mass exodus of white-collar workers from a variety of fields, including finance and technology. What experts are calling the “Great Resignation” continues in spite of six figure salaries for investment bankers fresh out of college and employer accommodations such as flex-time and remote work for professionals in a variety of other industries.

Survey Finds Skilled Employees Leaving the Workforce En Masse

A new survey from HiBob, an HR/people management platform and Fiverr, an online freelancer marketplace, has revealed that it’s not just hourly wage workers who are jumping ship, either. Forty-six percent of HR professionals surveyed said that managers and directors are leaving, rather than entry-level workers.

“This leaves companies with a massive skills gap… They need to fill manager and director roles, ones that require years of experience and knowledge,” said Shany Malbin, general manager of Fiverr Business, in a GoBankingRates article.

The study went on to reveal that it takes, on average, as much as six months to hire new full-time employees. Coupled with the costs associated with recruiting and training new hires, it is in any business owners best interests to retain their in-house talent as long as possible.

But how can New York disability insurance and voluntary employee benefits make a difference?

Skilled Talent Turns to Freelance Gigs

The report revealed that 54% of HR professionals said many workers that resigned started their own business or decided to freelance. Workers are seeking flexibility, the ability to set their own hours, and work from anywhere. The DBL Center, which has excellent retention rates for our key employees, has offered as much flexibility as possible to our workers since 2004. “All I have done over the years is reinvested in technology to keep things current and safe from a security perspective, enabling my team to have continued flexibility,” said DBL Center President and CEO Michael Cohen.

Offering flexible hours, remote work, and perks like on-site childcare may help keep top employees. Statutory PFL in New York can also entice workers who are caregivers by giving them flexible, paid time off to care for children or their aging parents.

For many workers, statutory benefits like New York disability insurance, along with voluntary employee benefits and enriched DBL packages, could be another draw that keeps them employed. After all, freelancers in New York aren’t required to provide their own New York disability insurance and ancillary benefits are rarely available – or affordable – for self-employed individuals.

Why New York Disability Insurance Matters to Upper-Level Employees

Enriched DBL coverage tends to benefit executive-level employees and management as much, if not more, than it benefits other workers in an organization. Enriched DBL coverage enhances New York disability insurance to a cap of $850 per week. That’s not likely to cover all the monthly expenses of a six-figure, salaried employee – especially in New York. But coupled with accident insurance or critical illness insurance, it can help an ill or injured employee avoid tapping into their investments or rainy-day savings fund, offering peace-of-mind for the employee and their family.

“It takes 7.2 years to double income from investments at a rate of 10%,” explains DBL Center President and CEO Michael Cohen. “When employees have savings, it’s wise to keep it parked where it can grow.”

Similarly, ancillary benefits like vision, dental, and Group Life / AD&D offer tremendous value to employees who are likely to invest in regular vision and dental care, including braces for their kids.

How You Can Profit from the Great Resignation and Employee Retention Struggles

Insurance brokers are in a unique position to solve workforce retention challenges in a variety of industries, including finance and technology.

Spotlight New York disability insurance and voluntary employee benefits as a way to keep talented employees from taking the entrepreneurial route. Point out the cost savings employers will experience when they bundle statutory benefits like PFL and DBL with enriched DBL and ancillary benefits.

For business owners, enriching their employee benefits package will cost less than recruiting, hiring and training new talent. Productivity won’t suffer and they can focus on growing their business, knowing that their insurance broker is working in their best interests as a crucial part of theirteam

Voluntary Benefits at Work: The Antidote to “The Great Resignation”

In part one of our interview with Larry Estridge, The DBL Center’s new Regional VP of Group Voluntary Worksite Benefits, we talked about Estridge’s plans to work with DBL Center brokers to help them fill gaps in coverage and build loyalty with their clients through expanded voluntary employee benefits.

In part 2, we dig deep into why voluntary benefits at work are so crucial today as we face “The Great Resignation.” Record numbers of employees are quitting their jobs, according to recent reports, and there are more positions available than qualified employees willing to fill them. Additionally, nearly 2/3 of U.S. workers are currently looking for a new job.

Surprisingly, one study conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Motivosity suggested that “job satisfaction” is not the key reason people quit their jobs. Findings from other surveys found that the keys to retaining employees come down to a number of factors, including the employee’s culture fit within the company, their relationships with co-workers, and the sacrifices they’d have to make if they quit – such as losing voluntary benefits at work.

Estridge pointed out, “A person is less likely to go down the street to a company’s competitor for another couple of bucks if they know they have a strong benefit package where they are.”

For insurance brokers, The Great Resignation represents an opportunity to cross-sell voluntary employee benefits with statutory lines of coverage and help their customers recruit and retain top talent in tumultuous times.

In our last chat, we touched upon the broad variety of voluntary worksite benefits. Can you explain each product line in a bit more detail?

Larry Estridge: Let’s start with disability insurance – it replaces a portion of income, usually up to 60%, for on- and off-the-job accident and sickness.

Accident insurance pays a scheduled benefit for on-and-off the job accidents, such as burns, broken bones, ambulance rides, and emergency room coverage. It can also help with out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles and co-pays.

Critical illness insurances helps employees pay out-of-pocket costs at the time of diagnosis, for things like cancer, liver disease, heart disease, stroke. It’s paid in a lump sum benefit directly to the employee. It can be used for medical expenses, rent, mortgage, groceries, anything they deem important at the time. So, it gives an employee ease and flexibility.

Life insurance is another one of the more common voluntary benefits at work. It’s often used for funeral costs, final expenses, leaving behind money as part of their legacy.

Dental and vision coverage. Those two are self-explanatory and those are the two that are usually associated with voluntary benefits at work.

Why are these voluntary employee benefits so important from a recruiting and retention standpoint, especially during the labor shortage?

A person usually takes a job or a position with a company for the right career path, or they’re looking for a competitive or good salary. But what really keeps a person at a company, aside from the paycheck, is a strong benefits package. Voluntary benefits at work are a main part of the reason companies are able to recruit and retain employees. People are really looking ahead – especially in today’s times.

Do most companies typically go for employee-funded, employer-funded or shared costs?

Larry Estridge: I would say that varies. Most companies offer some group life / AD&D along with dental and vision paid for by the employer. They may provide some LTD or STD, but employees can then choose from different offerings such as critical illness, accident insurance and the like, or they can “buy up” on other offerings. These products can be extended to family members. Usually the cost is absorbed by the employee when they do that.

Many states are introducing Paid Leave, Paid Family Leave, and expanded disability benefits packages. With this coverage available through the state, why is it more important than ever for employers to provide a range of voluntary benefits at work?

Larry Estridge: Going back to these crazy times we live in, employees are becoming more aware of what their benefits are, and what they can and can’t do. Voluntary employee benefits basically allow them to have a choice, to have some control over what their benefit package will look like. Employees can choose what’s most important to them and their families.

Again, the most robust offerings are, the better the pool of employees the owner can recruit into the business. Trying to bring someone on board – or keep them from moving elsewhere – with a strong benefit package is exactly what businesses need to be doing to combat today’s high quit rates.




DBL Center: Blazing a Trail with Voluntary Benefits

Human capital manager ponders voluntary benefits as a retention tool

Larry Estridge, DBL Center’s Regional VP of Group Worksite Benefits shares why disability insurance is just the beginning for our brokers…

Several years ago, The DBL Center redesigned its website and strategized a content marketing campaign to boost visibility and search engine rankings. Along with the new look and fresh content, our team came up with tagline “Disability insurance is just the beginning…”

The tagline spoke to the depth and breadth of The DBL Center’s product lines, including dental, vision, Group Life / AD&D and other ancillary benefits. In February 2017, New York State rolled out the most robust Paid Family Leave package our country had ever seen, and our tagline gained even more relevance.

This summer, The DBL Center brought on Larry Estridge, Regional Vice President of Group Worksite Benefits, to usher in a new era of expanded coverage for our brokers and their clients. His consultative sales approach fits in perfectly with the rest of The DBL Center team. He sat down with us to share his thoughts on voluntary worksite benefits, how these products can help new and current DBL Center brokers, and his future plans with The DBL Center.

Brokers have multiple options in voluntary benefits. What are some of the coverage lines available for DBL Center brokers?

Larry Estridge: Voluntary benefits can range anywhere from accident insurance, short term disability, long term disability, life insurance, critical illness, dental and vision.

Are certain voluntary benefits better suited for specific types of companies or specific demographics?

That’s an interesting question. In my experience, the size of the company really isn’t a trigger for the benefits. It starts with a conversation with the broker, and then a conversation between the broker and their client.

From our side, we help the broker start to determine what the employer’s needs are. Are there any gaps in their coverage? That’s where our expertise will come in.

We ask for a census to better understand the make up of the group. We also look and make sure added coverage makes sense. We don’t want to duplicate coverage. We just want to make sure the broker is doing the consulting they should be doing. We can help them look stronger – and increase their revenue and book of business – in an area where they might not have that expertise. That’s what we bring to the table.

Are there areas of coverage employers should look at to protect themselves, apart from providing coverage to their employees?

Larry Estridge: There are opportunities to look at executive carve-outs, which are things like income protection, disability insurance for executives, funding a buy-sell agreement for the partners, business overhead protection for business owners, key-personnel coverage is also important. These are benefits that are often overlooked because people don’t know to look for these things. We, at The DBL Center, offer this expertise to our brokers and their clients.

What would you tell brokers about the advantage of working with DBL Center for voluntary benefits packages?

Larry Estridge: For those already doing business with us, they already know who we are, what sets us apart, and how great our service is.

For those already doing business with us, they already know who we are, what sets us apart, and how great our service is. For those reading this who are not yet working with us, I want them to see and experience our strong serviceWe have a top-notch veteran team and access to some of the best carriers in the industry.  In both cases, it’s a chance for cross-sell opportunities. The more products they can offer their clients, the more stickiness the broker will have. That means the client is less likely to move onto another broker.

Clients are more apt to stay when you have more lines. Customers are more dedicated to you. As long as the broker is doing their job, the clients aren’t looking to move, because you offer what they need. You don’t have to hear, “We moved someplace else because we didn’t know you offered that product.” 

We can also offer more commissions to our brokers in some cases, because of our relationships with carriers. Our technology helps brokers work more efficiently. And, most importantly, they know we’re doing what we do best, and that allows them to concentrate on their area of expertise.

“Stickiness” is a word I haven’t heard in a while; we used it in the early days of social media. And it’s an appropriate term because it extends beyond customer loyalty. It means you’re the first option the customer considers and they “stick with you” longer – perhaps forever. Wouldn’t you agree?

Larry Estridge: Yes. It means customers are more dedicated to you. As long as the broker is doing their job, the clients aren’t looking to move.

In my more than 20 years of working with brokers, there have been times they’ve confessed that they lost someone because they came back and said their client didn’t know they had access to a specific product. And that’s sad. This is less likely to happen if you can have a conversation with a broker, and look over their business, and notice gaps… It’s a consultative approach and the client is less likely to move onto another broker.

Clients are more apt to stay when you have more lines. You don’t have to hear, “We moved someplace else because we didn’t know you offered that product.”

You mentioned earlier about not looking to duplicate coverage. Can you talk a little bit about that philosophy?

Larry Estridge: I always back off, rather than add duplication or unnecessary coverage. Forcing an unneeded benefit and losing a relationship because of that benefits no one! I know Mike and the team has that reputation of doing the right things and offering the right coverage at the right time. I’ve seen it in my short time here already.

It already sounds like you already fit right in with the team! What are some of your short- and long-term goals with The DBL Center?

Larry Estridge: Short term goals, I’d love to round out this fantastic team we have by growing the business for The DBL Center – bringing in new relationships I’ve nurtured for 20+ years and help them identify the selling opportunities with our carriers. I really want to establish us as a key player in the voluntary worksite and executive markets, so people see us growing and offering more.

From a long-term basis, I’d like to make us an industry standard in the voluntary benefits world, the way we already are with DBL, TDI, and Paid Family Leave. I want to make sure people know we are so much more than a DBL Center.









DBL Center Partners with Absence Management Firm to Assist Brokers

Absence management has become a crucial part of human resource management. For insurance brokers, absence management and leave administration represents our customers’ biggest pain points. HR directors and human capital management companies face more challenges than ever when it comes to tracking absenteeism, paid leave, and paid time off. Brokers who can help HR departments address these challenges can win their trust, loyalty and business forever.

Seeing the writing on the wall with Paid Sick Leave in New York and Paid Family and Medical Leave programs expanding across the country, the DBL Center sought to partner with an absence management firm to give our insurance brokers the tools they need to help their clients track employee time away from work.

The DBL Center is proud to announce its partnership with a top absence management company. “This new arrangement allows The DBL Center to complete the circle of service when it comes to comprehensive consulting surrounding leave administration in all required states,” says DBL Center President and CEO Michael Cohen.

What Is Absence Management?

Absence management refers to the added duty of HR directors to track employee leaves, reduce inaccurate or irrelevant claims, and stay in compliance with state and federal regulations regarding leaves. In some cases, companies may provide programs to help people return to work sooner or stay at work by modifying job duties or reducing the causes of disability.

Through our newest partnership, DBL Center brokers can provide their clients the value-added services of absence management and leave administration. These services will be specifically centered around the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, state-paid Paid Family Leave (PFL) in New York and PFML in Connecticut and Massachusetts, statutory benefits, short and long-term disability, voluntary and employer-sponsored benefits, and paid time off / sick leave.

How Can Outsourcing Leave Administration Help Your Clients?

In this era of remote work, tracking employee leave, paid time off, flex-time and absences that extend past the normal few days, such as for short-term disability, has become more complicated than ever. Through The DBL Center’s new partners, our brokers now have a single, centralized source to help HR directors track and administer all forms of leave. Our new partners can assist DBL Center brokers’ clients with the coordination, management, and adjudication of benefits. They can assist and review with claims, and also assist with payment preparation. By outsourcing these responsibilities to a firm with expertise in the area, HR departments can save time and money, reduce the time spent filing claims, reduce or eliminate inaccurate claims, and even ensure that employees receive their money faster to improve retention rates.

“This partnership fills the holes in our offerings, giving HR directors exactly what they need in these challenging times, when statutory benefits are changing quickly across the U.S. and people have more ways – and reasons – than ever to file for time off from work,” says Cohen.

The Broker Dashboard Helps Track Leave Administration

In addition to receiving the services of an expert absence management company, DBL Center brokers can track leave the administration of all policies through our proprietary Broker Dashboard: Net Revenue Tracker.

Brokers will receive bi-monthly reminders for cases that are in delinquent status for non-payment of premium or are pending renewal. Brokers can also use the dashboard to pinpoint opportunities for upsells of voluntary worksite benefits for customers that are only purchasing statutory plans.

Workplaces are changing and will continue to change as new benefits are introduced. Meanwhile, HR director’s responsibilities continue to grow. The DBL Center remains your one-stop, back-office staff for statutory and voluntary benefits, paid family and medical leave and now, absence management and leave administration, with tech-forward tools like Broker Dashboard to help you grow your book of business.

Learn more about how we can help you here: Net Revenue Tracker Broker Dashboard Preview

DBL Center President Michael Cohen Live: The Secret Life of a New York Insurance Wholesaler

The DBL Center President and CEO Michael Cohen recently appeared as a guest on Model FA, a podcast for fiduciary financial advisors, hosted by David DeCelle.

Many insurance brokers who work with Michael know his background as a stand-up comedian. But you may not know that he was very close to becoming a writer on The Drew Carey Show. He shares this story, and many others, on the podcast, along with offering his best tips for brokers to grow their book of business and pondering the future potential of a federal Paid Family Leave or Family and Medical Leave policy.

You can listen to the podcast here or download it through Apple Podcasts with your iTunes account.

We’re sharing some key moments here. But make sure to listen to the end to hear about one of Mike’s first jobs as a comedy writer and an insightful session of “Would You Rather?” where David DeCelle puts Mike in the hot seat.

How Michael Cohen Got into Insurance

Michael Cohen had no interest to get into the family business. His father, DBL Center founder, wanted him to get his insurance license in order to carry on the family legacy. But the more his father pushed, the more Mike resisted. Instead, he went to Boston University to get a degree in film and television.

One of Mike’s professors suggested he move to Los Angeles to write for The Drew Carey Show. But by the time the semester ended and the opportunity arose, Carey had already signed on to host The Price is Right.

“It was all these tipping points and I come home for spring break and my dad said, ‘Insurance is looking pretty good right now, isn’t it?’”

Michael finished up his insurance license and started working for his dad part-time while doing stand-up comedy around Long Island and New York City at night. The skills he developed on stage, however, became a crucial part of his success in the insurance industry.

Michael Cohen’s Favorite Book

Mike told DeCelle that he believes the book The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene should be taught in school. “It’s about how to charm people,” he said. He talks about the impact reading the book had on his life, recalling something an astrologer told him.

“I went to this astrologer at a party and she told me, ‘You do a lot of things that are similar. You run track, where it’s you in the lane against everybody else. You do stand-up comedy, which is your back against the wall. And you’re in sales, which is also a lonely, independent type of position.’”

Mike continued, “All of those things helped me realize how I could prove myself to be trustworthy with other individuals. That book may have helped me connect all those dots into becoming who I am today.”

Why Face-to-Face Beats Out Zoom

Mike internalized the things he learned in the book, and from his father – who he affectionately called “the Don Rickles of insurance” – to focus on forging personal connections with his workers, his customers, and his carriers.

Noting that he prefers face-to-face meetings over Zoom calls, which are more “corporate and structured,” with less time to chat and make connections, Mike said he likes to go out walking with his employees to chat and connect. “As long as it’s not raining, we’ll go outside and just chat casually,” he said.

Forging Personal Connections to Build Business

Mike learned how to make connections early in his insurance career out of necessity. “When I would do an enrollment meeting with my dad, he would be throwing me to the wolves,” Mike recalls.

When he encountered a question he didn’t know how to answer, he’d shift the conversation to find common ground. “I’d say, ‘Well, I don’t know, but I’m performing Friday night at Governor’s in Levittown, if you want I’ve got two tickets.’ I would make people feel comfortable.”

When Mike left the meeting and got into the car with his dad, he was nervous. But it turns out they got the business and Mike is friends with that broker to this day. “My father said, ‘You figured it out. You made people like you. You can always learn the products. The toughest part is making people like you.’ I used comedy as a door opener and took my passion to increase my profits.”

Check out the podcast here.


DBL Center Expands into Critical Illness Insurance with Larry Estridge

PFL can help you increase DBL revenue

The DBL Center, known for more than 40 years as a provider of statutory benefits in New York, New Jersey, Hawaii and now Connecticut and Massachusetts, is expanding to provide critical illness insurance, hospital indemnity insurance, and accident insurance plans. Insurance industry veteran Larry Estridge joins the insurance wholesaler as the Regional Vice President for Group Voluntary Worksite benefits.

See more: Meet our Team

Estridge comes to The DBL Center directly from OneShare Health, where he helped agents and brokers in the Northeast Region find affordable healthcare solutions for their clients. With more than a decade of experience in the insurance industry, Larry Estridge has previously worked at Union Central, where he provided training for agents and recruited, developed and managed independent distribution of Brokerage General Agencies. He has also worked as Regional VP, Director of Agencies for Ameritas Life Insurance and as District Development Manager at Colonial Life.

Larry Estridge, Regional Vice President of Group Worksite Benefits

In his new role at The DBL Center, Estridge will spearhead the wholesale general agency’s Voluntary Worksite Development department, providing brokers with options for critical illness insurance, hospital indemnity insurance, and accident insurance. He will also work to help grow the ancillary benefits division of DBL Center, which provides:

  • Group Life / AD&D
  • Long-term disability insurance (LTD)
  • Dental
  • Vision

Cultivating Relationships Across States and Industries

Estridge’s relationships in the insurance industry, his passion for employee benefits, and his consultative selling approach to voluntary worksite benefits will set him up for success as part of the growing DBL Center team. His focus on cultivating relationships with individual producers and agencies, as well as financial advisors, will help him construct the best solutions to help their clients protect their savings and lifestyle even in the event of an unthinkable accident or illness.

“I consistently utilize a balanced approach of product knowledge, discipline, creativity and sales support, which allows me to provide insurance solutions quickly, competitively, and accurately,” Estridge says. “Combining my knowledge and relationships with The DBL Center’s existing network and state-of-the-art technology will help us grow quickly and strategically in the voluntary worksite benefits and critical illness insurance space.”

About Critical Illness Insurance, Hospital Indemnity Insurance, and Accident Insurance Plans

Several major carriers and DBL Center partners provide critical illness insurance, hospital indemnity insurance and accident insurance plans. plans. As the newest addition to our company spearheading this growing division, Estridge will seek to provide insurance brokers across the U.S., including NY, NJ, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Florida, with these in-demand benefits for their clients.

Hospital indemnity insurance is a voluntary benefit, paid for by employees who opt in. It helps alleviate some of the financial burden of hospital stays for workers who have suffered an accident or serious illness off the job.

Similarly, critical illness insurance and accident insurance plans help protect employee’s savings with partial income replacement in the event of an on-the-job or off-the-job accident or illness, depending on the specific insurance plan. Coverage can be:

  • 100% employer-paid
  • 100% employee-paid as a voluntary benefits
  • Written as a shared-cost plan

Specific coverage levels, premiums, and the number of lives required to write this group benefit vary depending on the type of insurance. Estridge and The DBL Center team will help brokers find the right plan for their clients and help them save money by bundling critical illness insurance and other voluntary and ancillary benefits with statutory disability and paid family leave coverage in states where it applies.

“A lot has changed since the pandemic,” says DBL Center President and CEO Michael Cohen. “From workers to company owners, people began to face their own mortality and think hard about what might happen if they should become critically ill or injured and unable to work. There’s more demand than ever before for benefits like hospital indemnity insurance, critical illness insurance, and accident insurance plans. Larry’s experience and relationships will help The DBL Center stand out as a leader in helping our brokers give their clients more of the benefits they need and want. More than ever, I’m excited about our future as a company and the white-glove service we continue to offer to our brokers. There’s never been a better time to join our team.”



Record Numbers of Small Businesses Launched in 2020

Here’s how your insurance brokerage can benefit

P&C insurance brokers specializing in statutory and employee benefits may have been dismayed by the number of companies – especially in the hospitality sector – that went out of business in 2020. Insurance cancellations may have caused a loss in revenue at a time when it was harder to generate new business when you couldn’t meet with clients face to face during the pandemic.

Our proprietary Broker Dashboard: Net Revenue Tracker allows us to track and monitor details like this to help brokers retain clients and grow their book of business.

Also see: Selling NY State Disability Insurance: Getting Creative in the Time of Covid-19

However, new research shows that new business opportunities may not be as scarce as the insurance community had perceived. In fact, research from the University of Maryland economist John Haltiwanger showed that more new businesses opened in 2020 than they have at other times, Axios reported.

The Wall Street Journal reported that, during the pandemic, for every five stores that closed permanently in one Chicago neighborhood, 10 opened. While many of the new small businesses are e-commerce websites or “non-store retailers,” other sectors showing growth are restaurants, laundromats, and trucking companies, Axios reported.

How Does This Affect Statutory Insurance Brokers?

Currently, five U.S. states plus Puerto Rico mandate statutory disability benefits for employees. Hawaii, New Jersey, and New York offer options to privatize these employee benefits.

Read more: Opportunities Grow for Statutory Insurance Brokers

New business owners may not be aware that every full-time and many part-time employees require short-term disability coverage in accordance with the legislation for their state – even if the employee works out-of-state.

For instance, if a Wisconsin resident works remotely as a W-2 employee (not in independent contractor) for an e-commerce site based in New Jersey, the employer would be responsible for providing statutory disability and Family Leave Insurance (FLI) benefits to that worker.

Although many digital companies opt to work with independent contractors to simplify payroll and avoid these benefits, along with gaining flexibility and scalability in their workforce, some will hire full-time employees in key roles. Chief marketing officers, content managers, web developers, and accountants often hold full-time roles in e-commerce companies.

Additionally, new brick-and-mortar business owners will need to be informed about their state’s laws for statutory disability and family leave benefits. They will need to work with insurance brokers they can trust to educate them on the laws and offer options to get white-glove, specialized service. Small business owners may not recognize the importance of ancillary benefits for recruiting and retention. In today’s tight labor market, employee benefits such as Group Life / AD&D, vision, dental, and long-term disability can set new businesses apart.

For brokers, it’s a matter of connecting with new business owners and becoming their trusted advisor when it comes to employee benefits.

Where to Find New Businesses

Statutory insurance is unique – and can be uniquely profitable – because you are selling business owners a benefit they need. However, they may not know where to find it or how to get the lowest rates. They may not know they can bundle ancillary benefits with disability insurance for lower rates. If they have already started writing their benefits through their state, they might be unhappy with the service but unaware that they have alternatives.

The first step toward growing your book of business is to find small business owners who need your help. Local networking groups remain a key source of leads, especially now that people are attending in-person business meetings and networking events again.

Here are a few other places to uncover leads:

  • Check with your local Chamber of Commerce, which may provide business lists to their members.
  • Connect with the Corporations Division of the Secretary of State for their online directory of registered corporations
  • Search on Google for new businesses in specific industries

You can also use inbound marketing to attract new leads to you, by posting content on LinkedIn to connect with new business owners in your state.

Look Ahead, Reach Out, Deliver the Service Business Owners Expect

As we recover collectively from the effects of the past year and a half, it’s time to start looking ahead. The DBL Center makes it easy for you to deliver white-glove, personalized service and the lowest rates to your clients.

Reach out to find out how we can help you grow your book of business right now.



DBL Center Equips Brokers to Brace for the Storm

Summer is in full swing, the country is re-opening, and many New York, New Jersey, and New England residents are flocking to the beaches.

But brace yourself, because the employee benefits space is about to face a major financial storm front. This includes long- and short-term disability insurance, dental and vision, group life/AD&D, plus state-mandated short-term disability and paid family leave. If you sell insurance in any of these niches, read on for important information regarding what we can expect through 2022.

Winter may be challenging for P&C insurance brokers, and the time to prepare is now.

DBL Center President Michael Cohen shares his thoughts on inflation, the P&C insurance industry, and statutory benefits.

Storm Front Coming

Inflation is no joke. The cost of virtually everything is going up right now. But most statutory and group ancillary insurance carriers have kept rates flat. Rates are bound to increase. And it’s likely to happen just as small to mid-size business owners, including restaurants, bars, and other non-essential shops, are just starting to get back on their feet and show a profit after what was one of their worst financial years in recent history.

When DBL Center President Michael Cohen says a storm is brewing, he’s referring to a financial storm that will, in many ways, rival Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Of course, the superstorm was a weather event, but it impacted P&C insurance brokers in an irrevocable way.

Similarly, the coronavirus pandemic has been unprecedented in modern history. But with proper preparation, DBL Center brokers can position themselves for success amidst tumultuous change.

We chatted with DBL Center President Michael Cohen about how to take this summer to prepare for the coming months and what changes might be on the horizon.

Let’s cut right to the chase. We are seeing prices go up everywhere. Have the major statutory disability and group ancillary insurance carriers raised rates yet to keep up with inflation?

That’s a great question. After 15 to 18 months of rate passes from many preferred insurance carriers in the marketplace, we are beginning to see an uptick in activity.  At the DBL Center, we have always requested our Group Ancillary Benefit renewals 120 days in advance to give our sub producers ample leeway time if they plan on marketing the risk.

What is a broker’s best move in this inflationary economy? What selling techniques will be most effective and what products should they emphasize? 

Sell tiny increases. Each industry has a trend. If you can be at or slightly below that trend, you can generate additional revenue coming off the heels of a year when new business was slow and premiums dropped due to decreased payroll and headcounts.

If you own a brokerage firm and had a tough sales year, you can always rely on your residual income generated from renewals.  I’m not saying to sell astronomical rates but as long as it’s around or less than trend it should be able to be sold – especially when everything around us in our lives is also going up in price. Just look at the costs of meat and lumber as two examples!

Can you explain how DBL Center gets brokers the best rates for their clients’ statutory disability and ancillary benefits plans?

By leveraging block size. We have 46 years of compounded organic growth and several acquisitions, which have enabled us to maintain strength with the preferred carriers that we continue to represent and partner with.

Plus, our method for tracking revenue through our Broker Dashboard, which is a free added resource for any retail agent, makes it easier for brokers to stay on top of renewals and minimize cancellations while tracking what they net on a monthly basis.

We’re obviously in an inflationary period. Why is it smart for managers, owners, and company executives, to increase their spend in enriched DBL? 

Mainly to keep up with the new Paid Family Leave benefit law which is growing throughout the country.

I personally find it unusual that an individual claimant can receive more money to help a significant other than if they become personally sick or injured. Therefore, I feel it is in best practice to advertise the importance of enriching New York State’s mandated DBL Benefit. It has not increased since 1989 when our governor’s father was in office, Mario Cuomo.

Since you brought up PFL, let’s talk about that! Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York all introduced some form of Paid Family and Medical Leave in recent years. What do you see for the future?

It’s definitely the shiny object in the room and the point of discussion. Multiple states threw their hat in the ring last election to offer paid family leave on a fully insured basis. Currently Colorado and Oregon are next on the docket. New Hampshire and Delaware are in talks, too.  Excited to see who’s next!

As long as more states implement this into their legislation, we will continue to use this benefit to scale The DBL Center into the future.

How can brokers best prepare themselves for this future growth? 

Call The DBL Center their Insurance Wholesaler and let us help open the door for other product lines that they may specialize in and help monitor your book’s retention for free!