Artificial intelligence (AI) has become prevalent in every industry and in many homes, as well. If you’ve asked Siri to help you book a reservation at your favorite restaurant through OpenTable or used Alexa to create a playlist for a cocktail party you’re hosting, you’ve used AI.
In business settings, AI is beginning to help people schedule meetings, sift through resumes to find likely job candidates, and even provide customer service through chatbots online.
What Is Artificial Intelligence?
You’ve probably heard the phrase Artificial Intelligence many times and may even have a hint about what it means. You may have also heard another closely related term: Machine Learning.
An AI computer can act and react in ways similar to a human being. In other words, it can appear to think, and it can learn based on past experiences.
Machine learning is the means by which computers gain artificial intelligence.
In 2016, technologist, futurist, and investor Andrew Ng wrote, “If a typical person can do a mental task with less than one second of thought, we can probably automate it using AI either now or in the near future.”
This may be a vast simplification – or perhaps an over-statement – of AI’s capabilities. AI excels at pattern recognition, data sorting, voice recognition, and even responding to simple inquiries.
With this in mind, it’s easy to pinpoint some areas where AI could streamline insurance renewals, recordkeeping, audits, and bookkeeping for insurance professionals in the next five to 10 years – and perhaps even sooner.
Many brokers today use limited business intelligence analytics to track their business, but most of the activities are tracked manually, which means increased overhead and extra time spent staring at spreadsheets.
DBL Center’s Broker Dashboard can streamline many of your business intelligence processes, including tracking renewals, notifying staff of late payments, and tracking commissions. In the future, it will be able to track data across all your P&C accounts, not just policies purchased through The DBL Center.
But this is only the beginning. Future versions of these powerful business intelligent (BI) engines are nearly destined to employ AI and machine learning. The next iterations of Broker Dashboard may be able to analyze data faster, recognize relevant patterns, save brokers time, and potentially increase sales.
The potential for AI in the insurance industry in the future is incredible. Just as AI capabilities advance in the fields of healthcare and human resources, the insurance industry needs only embrace AI’s potential to streamline their business and earn more.
The Broker Dashboard of the future may be able to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to:
Predict which clients are likely to pay late so brokers can take pre-emptive action. Unlike running a credit check or looking at past behavior of that client, the AI algorithm can look at past behavior of clients with similar characteristics to predict future behavior of new clients. Brokers can take proactive steps to ensure bills are paid on time with reminder notifications or perhaps phone calls.
Identify good candidates for upsells like enriched DBL and ancillary benefits. AI could help increase the success rate of sales calls. Rather than taking a shotgun approach to try to sell existing clients bundled benefits packages, AI can help brokers identify highly-qualified leads most likely to say yes. Brokers will be more productive and earn more by delivering the benefits their clients really want.
Track the reasons behind cancellations. What if you could increase your retention rates by understanding why certain clients cancelled and take steps to retain similar clients? It’s always cheaper to keep a customer than to make a new one. By pinpointing cancellation patterns, AI can help you increase retention rates and keep your brokerage growing.
Track successful existing clients and identify likely prospects. If you are like many brokers, you’ve been working on building your database of prospects through social media, inbound marketing, direct mail, and in-person networking. AI is well-suited to compare that list to a list of your most successful clients. AI can help you cull down your massive database to find top prospects who are not only likely to say “yes.” It may also be able to pinpoint clients who will pay on time, stay with your company for years, and purchase multiple lines, including DBL, business insurance, home insurance, group life, and ancillary benefits.
AI can take a lot of the guesswork out of insurance sales with business intelligence analytics. AI can recognize patterns of behavior and help brokers capitalize on all the data they have at their fingertips today.
Brokers who adopt these advanced technologies as they become available will save time, earn more, and stay ahead of the curve.
With our new broker dashboard and other business intelligence tools within reach, DBL Center can help.
by Michael Cohen
Incorporated as The DBL Center Ltd. since 1983, The DBL Center has many long-time, second generation clients. But few brokers have stories steeped in such rich New York history as Richard King, owner of King Associates.
Richard King was mentored by the late David Cohen, landing prestigious accounts that included The Garden City Hotel and Fairhaven Apartments when DBL Center was a brand-new wholesale insurance agency.
Later, King sponsored DBL Center President Michael Cohen’s admission into The Friars Club, the preeminent members-only club for entertainment professionals located in a five-story English Renaissance Tudor in Midtown Manhattan.
King says the key factor that has prevailed across two generations of DBL Center management is the enthusiasm of the team, which King shares as he reminisces about his mentors, offers tips for brokers, and talks about his involvement with the Friars and how it can help an insurance broker.
How did you first meet David Cohen and start doing business with The DBL Center?
I think David may have cold-called me, because he was very aggressive – just like my dad. I have to give you a bit of the history. It was because of my dad, Murray King, that Dave and I did business together.
My dad was raised in the Bronx with four brothers. When he grew up and got married, he became a math professor at City College. Then he started selling insurance with Hancock, in the 1940s, because he didn’t have a job one summer.
Selling door-to-door in Harlem, he made it big, with a lot of persistence through the years, as a one-man show.
I introduced Dave to my Dad, who was a powerhouse life insurance broker at the time. Dave loved Murray because they were both characters.
Murray was handling life insurance at the time for top real estate developers on Long Island, like Myron Nelkin, who built Fairhaven Apartments and the Garden City Hotel.
So we wrote life insurance and DBL for Fairhaven Apartments – 2,500 units – and the Garden City Hotel through DBL Center. I also handled a printing firm of about 400 other companies, and other Long Island businesses.
Dave was my guy.
What was it like doing business with DBL Center back then, 35 years ago?
I was writing life insurance and DBL. I would use DBL as the foot in the door, because nobody knew about it. Nobody knew it was an employer-funded, state-mandated benefit.
Back then, as far as back office support, it was all Eugene [Puleo]. Eugene was invaluable. Even after all these years, Eugene offers superb back office support, giving me prodigious confidence, accuracy, and the ability to make sales.
How was it different selling DBL back then from now?
It was all about in-person contact. There was no email. There were no excuses or delays because of the electronic convenience aspect. You did not have to wait for someone to reply. You did everything in person.
You made an appointment, you went in, and whether you were successful or not was up to you.
Dave abided by one-on-one communications. He had superior communication skills, just like my Dad. I was fortunate to have them both as mentors.
What set David and DBL Center apart from others in the industry back then?
The key word there is enthusiasm.
David Cohen had it. Murray had it. I had it. Certainly, Michael [Cohen, DBL Center President] has it. Beyond the education and everything else we need to sell insurance, enthusiasm is the key difference.
When someone sees our enthusiasm, we make the sale. Today, if I go in with Michael, we’re getting the client.
Tell us where the Friars Club connection comes in.
I met Michael when he was right out of college, and I remember thinking he had a great voice. Like his dad, communication was his strength.
I started talking to Michael about the Friars Club, and he said he wanted to join. I had been on the admissions committee for many years, and I’d been a member for 25 years, very involved with the club. So, I said, “Let’s go.”
He was the perfect candidate, so I sponsored his induction.
Michael has done a great job promoting DBL in conjunction with the Friars Club, booking comedians through the club, bringing clients there, and using it for networking.
For those who may not be familiar, what are the benefits of networking within the Friars Club?
The Friars Club is the largest entertainment club in the country, and it’s great networking. Two-thirds of the members are professional entertainers and the other one-third are non-professionals. But the celebrities and the non-celebrities are all on the same level.
When you bring clients there, you are including them in something special here in New York. You’re entertaining them like no other agent can.
Merging business with entertainment – that’s something Murray and David were brilliant at, and now Michael is doing it.
If you bring a prospect to the Friars Club, they are not leaving without becoming a client.
To learn more about booking comedians through the Friars Club for a holiday party or special event, call The DBL Center now.
by Dawn Allcot
The DBL Center held some in house celebrations last week as we settled into our new Melville, Long Island office. But it’s not just our employees who benefit from our continued growth.
Thanks to the industry relationships we have fostered over the past 40 years as a wholesale general agency, we are in a position to offer brokers industry-high base commissions as well as bonuses for consolidating their book of business with DBL Center.
When you consolidate your book of business with DBL Center through select carriers, you’ll receive a 22.5% base commission, and a one-time bonus based on the dollar value of the new business.
When you move between $20,000 and $99,999, you’ll earn a 5% bonus on all new business. Earn a 10% one-time bonus if your book, including DBL policies under and over 50 lives, is between $100,000 and $149,000.
DBL Center is making it easy for you to move your book of business. Simply reach out to us for a spreadsheet detailing the information we need from you to help your customers make the switch. There is no need to fill out a new application for each case. Once the new policies are issued, you can cancel the existing in-force policies, save your customers money, and cash in on bonuses and generous commissions.
Earn More with PFL
These broker incentives are a direct result of the introduction of PFL, a mandatory benefit written as a rider to DBL coverage in NY.
Not every carrier is writing PFL riders, so you may be in the process of helping your customers switch carriers. By letting DBL Center shop around for DBL policies for both under and over 50 lives, you may earn better commissions on PFL. DBL Center rewards you for a business move you may have to make, anyway.
PFL has had a huge learning curve for everyone, and our brokers deserve to be rewarded for their hard work and knowledge they provide to their customers. Together with our carrier partners, we are helping PFL pay off for our brokers.
Why It Pays to Consolidate Your Book of Business
If you aren’t using DBL Center for DBL over and under 50 lives, you could be missing out on high commissions, bonuses, white-glove service, and the convenience of using one wholesale general agency for your whole book of statutory business. Having one point of contact, a professional you can trust if you have questions or need personalized service, is always easier. As DBL Center continues to grow, we can offer even more to our loyal brokers.
This fall, we will introduce our new broker dashboard, making it even easier for you to track all your DBL business and revenue from one intuitive app.
The DBL Center team keeps working hard to offer our brokers more and to make it easy to do business with us.
With our new broker incentives package, there was never a better time to trust us to write your disability policies, ancillary benefits packages, and more.
Let us know how DBL Center can serve you today.
The DBL Center held a summer celebration at Prime in Huntington on the Long Island Sound.
The team, led by Michael Cohen, has plenty to celebrate in 2018. We have a new office in Melville and we’re getting set for the launch of our Broker Dashboard this fall, followed by the introduction of our Net Revenue Tracker (NRT) software.
We’d like to take this chance to give you a peek into life at DBL Center.
You’ll get to know us a little bit better. And maybe understand exactly how – and why – white-glove service is a core part of our company mission and how important our brokers are to us.
The DBL Center has always been a family-owned company. And our employees are a lot like family, too.
With this in mind, picture your most boisterous family meal, and you could imagine our lunch at Prime.
There was lots of great food, many laughs, and great stories from great storytellers. (We have many in the DBL extended family). As the conversation meandered to family traditions, there were strong reminders of where we came from and some talk of where we are going.
Our new office at 155 Pinelawn Road in Melville, a few miles south of our prior location and near prestigious Long Island companies like Newsday and Estee Lauder, gives The DBL Center more space and more amenities. With room to grow within our suite, the office boasts an open floor plan that allows our team to work more closely in alignment. We are all here to help each other.
On a summer Friday afternoon, the office spaces are filled with laughter. The atmosphere makes us more eager to work and happy to provide our brokers with the service they expect. Productivity, creativity, and idea-sharing are all enhanced as DBL Center prepares to enter its next stage of growth.
In the doorway of the office suite to greet visitors and employees is an original drawn portrait of founder David Cohen by local artist and family friend John D. Herz, who David often called, “the Michelangelo of the #2 pencil.” The image reminds us, daily, of why it’s so important to continue living up to our founder’s vision of white-glove service.
Of course, the new office space boasts all the expected amenities. New, ergonomic office chairs were specially chosen for our employees’ comfort and enhanced productivity. In addition to the large conference table in the common area, there is a conference space in president Michael Cohen’s office, where he records our popular webinar series that covers topics like Paid Family Leave, and a screen to show WebEx demos of our new NRT software to brokers.
As DBL Center continues to expand in every way, we have more resources to serve our brokers better, faster, and with the level of attention you expect and deserve. Our webinars and website are just a few examples of how we’ve evolved for the better in the past few years, and our new office is the next step in that evolution.
As our sales volume increases, it puts us in an even better position to negotiate with carriers to secure the best deals for our brokers.
Yet, DBL Center will never forget our roots and will never neglect the personalized service we have offered for more than 40 years. We may grow larger, with nicer offices and more personnel, but we won’t ever become a “big box” insurance wholesaler.
We maintain true to David Cohen’s vision of a “boutique” insurance agency dedicated to serving our brokers, even as we leverage today’s technology to do so in new and more effective ways.
Drop us a line and let us know how we can serve you today.
While many of our Long Island neighbors celebrated with fireworks and barbecues earlier this month to commemorate the birth of our nation, DBL Center had a small celebration of our own.
And it was all thanks to our loyal brokers and network of carriers.
On July 3, 2018, the DBL Center was excited to write an insurance policy that put us over the mark for 1 million lives insured.
This prompted our copywriter to respond to the announcement, of course, with an Austin Powers gif. (Given president Michael Cohen’s affiliation with the Friar’s Club, having a sense of humor is virtually a requirement for working with The DBL Center.)
It was especially exciting that such a landmark accomplishment occurred on a landmark U.S. holiday, and it shows us that the future for the DBL market is strong.
But, we could not have done it without our brokers. And for that, we thank you all!
We love that our brokers recognize the advantages of working with us.
When you write short-term disability and ancillary benefits with DBL Center, you are not just getting an insurance wholesaler. You’re getting a partner with all the tools to help you convert your health and P&C customers into short-term disability clients and also earn extra commission with the sale of ancillary benefits.
Brokers know insurance is a high-touch business. The more ways you can reach out to your customers and prospects with the information they need—before they even know they need it, in some cases — the better it is for your reputation as an insurance broker.
The DBL Center has always made it our business to keep our brokers informed of price changes, changes to short-term disability benefits law, and the overall state of the insurance market.
In recent years, we’ve ramped up these efforts with multiple touchpoints for reaching our loyal brokers.
This year, we introduced a webinar series discussing New York State PFL regulations, and we also launched our PFL resource center on our website.
In addition, we reach out with bi-weekly mailings, regular calls, and through our LinkedIn page.
In the fourth quarter, we will be expanding our Facebook presence, too. (You can stay ahead of the curve and “like” and “follow” our page now for the latest insurance industry news.)
We also hold Lunch & Learn events for those who prefer face-to-face interaction and education rather than virtual connections.
“DBL Center is very aggressive with customer education, and that’s important when we’re selling ancillary lines,” says Richard Ambrose, senior vice president-practice leader, employee benefits, for Meeker Sharkey & Hurley, a New Jersey-based insurance broker and long-time customer of The DBL Center. “Michael Cohen and his team are very tapped into what’s happening in the industry, whether we are talking about Paid Family Leave in New York, TDB, or ancillary benefits,”
Gregory D. Singleton, principal at Connecticut broker ComTon, adds, “I thought we had a great knowledge of DBL coverage, and the DBL Center’s knowledge is as good—if not better—than ours. The DBL Center team is very good about explaining the capabilities of one insurance carrier over another, and of helping us market the benefits of various carriers to our clientele.”
Read more from our growing family of insurance brokers here.
With the introduction of our NRT Net Revenue Tracker app in the fall, as well as the incentives and opportunities we offer to brokers today, The DBL Center is not your typical insurance wholesaler.
Whether you would like to reward your top performers with exclusive sporting event tickets, give your agents a chance to learn about changes happening in the short-term disability market, or simply deliver the best service to your customers, The DBL Center is here — and has been for more than 40 years and 1 million lives insured.
What would you like to see from DBL Center in the way of education and outreach?
Drop us a line and let us know. Our marketing and sales teams are always hard at work finding better ways to serve our customers.
Corporate Synergies is a full-service insurance brokerage, providing health, ancillary benefits, P&C coverage, and DBL / PFL for companies with as many as 10,000 employees.
“We have about 600 customers total and we have office in Melville, Long Island; New York City, New Jersey, Maryland and Florida,” says Peter Tonna, vice president and benefits consultant for Corporate Synergies. “We primarily operate in the middle market, serving businesses with 50 to 1,000 employees, but we also have customers with 5,000 to 10,000 employees, especially in the fields of not for profits, education, and financial services.”
Digging Deep into Practical Matters Concerning PFL
Experts in the field of health and ancillary benefits, as well as DBL, Corporate Synergies has relied on DBL Center’s knowledge and expertise when it came to navigating the often-muddy waters of New York State’s new PFL coverage. “The DBL Center has come to us many times with educational materials to help us understand the new law and how it’s implemented. If I have questions, I can pick up the phone and Mike [DBL Center President Michael Cohen] will explain it,” says Tonna.
“It’s one thing to talk about PFL in broad strokes, but when you get into the weeds, talking about a specific situation or a real-life experience, Mike has helped explain the differences and overlap between PFL and FMLA in ways we can convey to our customers,” he continues. “Most importantly, DBL Center gives us ways to make sure that knowledge and insight is communicated to the employees and HR directors.”
Analyzing Ancillary Benefits
Corporate Synergies also leverages DBL Center’s relationships with carriers to get the best rates by bundling DBL and ancillary benefits. “We promote dental and group life as the power players for ancillary benefits,” Tonna says. “Voluntary group life is typically low cost, and employees many not have to go through medical underwriting, which saves time and hassles.”
Corporate Synergies and DBL Center: A Mutual Focus on Service
With a new website focused on educating customers about the ever-changing landscape of employee benefits, Corporate Synergies shares DBL Center’s philosophy of providing exemplary service and consultative selling to drive repeat business and referrals.
With offices just minutes away from each other in Melville, The DBL Center and Corporate Synergies have maintained a relationship any business owner dreams of. The DBL Center is more than just a wholesaler for Corporate Synergies, but a trusted partner, sharing advice and referrals.
“The whole DBL team is local, knowledgeable and experienced,” Tonna says. “And that translates into increased value for my customers. My customers are the most important thing in my world, and I want to make sure they are educated and informed. DBL Center has been a great resource to help us cut through the fog and confusion surrounding DBL and PFL in New York.”
Brokers: Is Your Insurance Firm Ready to Be Next?
Are you enjoying our Broker Spotlight series? Reach out and let us know!
If you have a unique and interesting story to tell about your relationship with DBL Center or how we have helped you grow your business, contact us now to be featured as our next “Broker Spotlight.”
More than 1.5 million non profit organizations are registered in the U.S., says the National Center for Charitable statistics. And they all need nonprofit insurance coverage.
With 20.3 million people living in the New York Tri-State area, it’s safe to say a proportionate number of those non profits are based right here. And, just like your small business and large corporate customers, they are looking for low premiums, high-quality insurance coverage, and stellar service from their non profit insurance brokers.
Non profit workers are traditionally paid less than their counterparts at for-profit companies. Owners of non profit organizations must tread carefully because they could face fines if the IRS deems their employees’ salaries “excessive.” Not only do nonprofits have less money to pay out—because their funding comes from supporter donations—but employers opt to err on the side of caution with employee salaries.
In order to find the best people to help them achieve their mission, non profits must look at other ways to attract and retain top employees. And that’s where insurance for non profit organizations comes in, especially when you are talking about enriched DBL and ancillary benefits. Most non profits have smaller operating budgets than corporations, including less money to pay out for employer-funded benefits like healthcare. But voluntary, employee-funded benefits like group life, vision, and dental coverage deliver great value at a low cost to employees.
Non profits go beyond foundations and mission-specific charitable organizations. They may include hospitals and universities, and other important business-oriented organizations with large teams and hefty operating costs.
Not only can non profits be a valuable sector by themselves, but selling not for profit insurance can also attract local business leads and new clients when your non profit customers spread the word to their members and volunteers about the service you deliver. Local networking groups such as your Chamber of Commerce, Lions’ Clubs, and Kiwanis are all non profit organizations.
Are you ready to start selling insurance for non profit organizations?
To successfully sell not for profit insurance benefits, you need to understand what motivates the employees. Value-driven millennials often seek work with non profit organizations, because they want a career that makes a difference in the world along with providing a paycheck.
Employees are often willing to accept less pay because the intrinsic benefits of the job win out in the end. But, once reality sets in and the rent comes due, top talent may quickly be recruited away with promises of a hefty salary, ancillary benefits, and exciting perks in the corporate world.
A non profit may not be able to match a Fortune 500 in terms of pay. But non profit insurance brokers can offer something equal in intrinsic value and help organizations recruit and retain top talent by following these four steps.
Any good salesperson knows how it important it is to understand your audience. And the non profit group tends to be passionate about their beliefs. If you are working with an animal rights organization, for instance, mention your family pets you adopted from a rescue.
If you are working with an organization that supports eco-tourism,, and can off-handedly mention your Prius, they will understand you are aligned with their values. They will also love the efficiency of getting nonprofit insurance quotes online, without the hassles of paperwork.
Once you’ve made that personal connection, how do you make the leap to insurance products? By tapping into what’s important to non profit employees, you can show them the employee benefits that will help enhance their lifestyle by saving them money.
Millennials — especially those who choose to work for non profits—treasure a work/life balance and want to make a difference at work and at play. Saving money on dental and vision costs may free up cash so they can travel more, for instance, or adopt another pet from the animal rescue.
A good life insurance policy will provide peace of mind to employees starting a family. And a 401K will give them the financial freedom they need to continue supporting their favorite causes, through donations or volunteerism, into their retirement.
Recruiting and retention is a major challenge for executives in the non profit sector. Smaller organizations may not have an HR director who understands the specifics of employee benefits packages, how they are structured, or what’s available.
They need a non profit insurance broker they can trust to explain how ancillary benefits can be bundled with mandatory coverage for maximum savings, and how these benefits can be used as important recruiting and retention tools to keep top talent.
Don’t assume anyone in the organization understands the value of employee benefits. Hold a lunch-and-learn seminar, make information available on your website, let employers and their employees, alike, know you are available for questions.
Bottom line: Making insurance for non profit organizations part of your book of business involves a large amount consultative selling. Make sure prospective clients understand that these are employee-funded, voluntary benefits that cost very little compared to the money they will save over their lives.
The story begins 14 years ago, as many Long Island stories do, in a diner. Through a referral from another local business owner, David Clausen of Coastal Insurance, an independent insurance agency in NY, met with Michael Cohen of DBL Center. Founded in 2001, Coastal was just three years old at the time, and Clausen was looking for a better way to write DBL coverage for his New York business customers.
Fourteen years later, Clausen still visits that same diner on Long Island’s North Shore, and still writes his DBL and enriched DBL policies through The DBL Center. “Whenever we need something, Michael is there,” says Clausen. “It’s a product that works at a great price. The process is efficient for our staff and the service is great. What more could you ask for?”
New York State’s Paid Family Leave Act, introduced in 2017, gave The DBL Center an opportunity to over-deliver and exceed Clausen’s high expectations for exemplary service. When one major carrier exited the DBL market to avoid writing PFL riders, Clausen filled that void, strengthening his business relationship with the carrier and opening doors for Coastal Insurance.
“When PFL became mandatory, some carriers had a lot of other business lines they didn’t want to lose, but they no longer wanted to write DBL,” explains Clausen. “They felt that if they canceled DBL they’d lose the other lines of business.”
Clausen took on one carrier’s DBL lines, writing the policies through The DBL Center to provide a friendlier and more robust alternative to the New York State Insurance Fund. He promised the carrier he would not market other lines of business to the carrier’s existing customers.
Through this mutually profitable relationship, the other carrier began sending referrals to Clausen’s office for high-risk homeowners insurance and other business and personal lines. Coastal Insurance also gained the opportunity to write the DBL policies for the insurance carrier’s 30+ offices across the New York Tri-State area. “It was great to reconnect with the agents, and it opened doors to additional streams of revenue for my agency,” says Clausen. “It was a win-win all the way around.”
Coastal Insurance serves individuals and businesses across the New York Tri-state area, including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut, and even as far south as Florida. With a focus on high net worth individuals on Long Island’s North Shore, 70 percent of Coastal’s business is made up of personal insurance, including home/auto umbrella policies. The other 30 percent of Coastal’s customers are small businesses, from $1 billion retailers to pizzerias, doctor and dentist offices and other small businesses. Clausen describes the bulk of this clientele as “the Main Street USA business owner.” And this is where Clausen’s relationship with DBL Center plays an important role.
With its online “quick quote” interface to bind DBL policies under 50 lives in minutes, The DBL Center excels in serving small businesses under 50 lives. “It couldn’t be easier to go online and quote and bind a policy,” says Clausen. “Some other insurance products are a bit more labor intensive.”
He adds, “DBL Center makes it easy to get the product at the right price, quickly and efficiently. I’ve been with The DBL Center for nearly 15 years. Michael and his team make great partners for the independent agent on Long Island and we value that partnership.”
History (nearly) repeats itself with the introduction of Paid Family Leave
October 29, 2012: It was a sad day for many New Yorkers as properties were swept away in Superstorm Sandy, businesses went under, and more than 8.1 million homes across the U.S. were left without electricity for a week or more.
Superstorm Sandy caused losses totaling $19 billion dollars, resulting in delayed payouts and financial hardship to the insurance agencies that paid out more than they’d earned in premiums. Many P&C brokers struggled to survive.
Meanwhile, Zurich Insurance Company, a leading global business insurance carrier, had just left the New York State DBL market a week prior due to a number of factors. Turmoil and uncertainty plagued the industry, as New York tri-state area business owners struggled to pick up the pieces and adopt a “new normal” after Sandy.
Here we are almost exactly five years later, and the entire U.S. is banding together to assist those suffering from the aftereffects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in Texas and Florida.
In New York, as we write this, the wind whips outside the windows of our Long Island headquarters, and the nearby Costco parking lot is packed as Long Islanders brace for a tropical storm —which could be the first of many this ominous hurricane season.
In the disability insurance sector, changes are once again brewing that have nothing to do with Mother Nature’s wrath. Paid Family Leave, a necessary insurance coverage that will provide employees with a living wage as they take time off to bond with a newborn or newly adopted child, care for an elderly parent, or hold down the fort while their spouse serves in the military, may burden some disability insurance carriers past their breaking point.
We don’t want to be alarmist. We only want to report the news with our analysis as we see it.
The Problems with PFL that No One Else Is Talking About
There are only a few select carriers that have committed to write PFL, which is offered as a mandatory rider to DBL coverage in New York State beginning January 1, 2018. Fortunately, those carriers are doing an excellent job of educating small business owners and HR directors about the implications of the coverage, as well as giving brokers what they need to know about the policies. DBL Center brokers have the added advantage of our industry experience and knowledge, along with access to educational webinars and live informational sessions. We’ve worked hard to make the transition to mandatory PFL coverage easy for brokers and small business owners alike.
But some challenges remain. Because PFL coverage is mandatory and written with DBL coverage, brokers will be left with fewer choices for DBL. Some carriers have already left the market, just as Zurich did five years ago. We expect many more to exit in the beginning of 2019, after the numbers come in for the first year of PFL coverage.
PFL, as it stands, is not profitable for insurance carriers. Payouts could easily total more than premiums, leaving carriers in the same position P&C brokers faced immediately following Superstorm Sandy. Some carriers will write PFL riders—because the only other choice is to leave the game altogether. But they may not offer commissions on the riders. Some carriers are recommending that brokers write enriched DBL on their existing policies to earn the commissions they expected from PFL.
Enriched DBL: The Answer to Bigger Commissions
There are a number of reasons to enrich DBL coverage right now. Not only is enriched DBL one of the more profitable products for brokers to write, it also provides customers with the best coverage for their money.
As an example, small business owners can enrich DBL coverage in $50 increments for just 44 cents every $50, up to $850 total. For an investment of just $5 a year, employees can get $50 more per week for up to 26 weeks. It doesn’t make sense not to enrich DBL. Paid Family Leave was carefully designed to provide employees with a living wage while they are out on leave. Mandatory DBL coverage only pays a maximum of $170 per week. Who can live on that in New York?
Most states that offer Paid Family Leave offer comparable benefits for disability claims. This helps reduce fraudulent claims and helps maintain employee morale by leveling the playing field and offering all employees comparable benefits if they need them.
DBL Center Brokers: Weathering the Storm
With Harvey and Irma on our minds, New Yorkers last week prepared for a storm that never came. Just like Mother Nature, the insurance industry is fickle. And, in both cases, it’s important to be prepared.
Carriers can exit at any time, for any reason, just as Zurich did in 2012. Who will be next? Brokers who align with DBL Center preferred carriers who are writing PFL riders are protecting themselves against changes in the marketplace.
Educate your customers about PFL riders before someone else does. Be their authoritative source and guide them to the right decisions, including enriching DBL so it is in line with PFL benefits.
Fortunately for brokers working with The DBL Center as their insurance wholesaler, we make it easy to write enriched DBL policies and earn greater commissions. Stay tuned, because next week we talk with our Director of DBL and TDB Benefits, Selena Kutschera, to show you just how simple it is to increase commissions with enriched DBL in three easy steps.
Meanwhile, stay safe and dry. The best protection against any storm is the right preparation. Our thoughts are with those across the country affected by this season’s hurricanes and storms.
Autumn is approaching and, here at The DBL Center, it’s one of our favorite times of the year. Autumn on Long Island is absolutely beautiful, with so much to do. Baseball season comes to a climactic ending with the pennant race heating up and the promise of post-season play. (We don’t want to talk about the Mets, but will the Yankees make it?) Football season begins. Weekends at the wineries on the East End are a perfect way to relax with family and friends. Fall festivals bring fun for all ages.
Autumn is also the time of harvest – when hard work comes to fruition to create a bounty. This is definitely what’s happening at The DBL Center this year. Our efforts of the first three quarters combined with legislation changes have resulted in tremendous growth for our business and expanded commission opportunities for our brokers across the country —especially here in New York and New Jersey.
PFL Is Here
If you’ve been reading our blog and newsletter, you’ve no doubt heard about the changes to Paid Family Leave. NOW, this autumn, is the time, if you haven’t already started, to educate your customers about this mandatory insurance. PFL coverage is written as a rider to existing DBL policies in New York, and employers are permitted to begin withholding to pay the premiums. If you haven’t begun discussing coverage options—and suggesting enriched DBL as an additional policy upgrade—now is the time.
As part of our expanded marketing and outreach efforts, the DBL Center launched a webinar series this autumn to explain this new coverage to our brokers. We have a resource center in the works, and also recently launched a video Q&A with DBL Center President Michael Cohen discussing some surprising facts about PFL that even the most savvy brokers may not know.
The webinar, video and resource center for PFL are just the beginning. We also have plans to launch a PR and marketing campaign designed to educate New York business owners about PFL, which will help our brokers sell the coverage by creating a more knowledgeable audience.
New Hires Help DBL Center Continue to Provide Personalized Service
Our growth initiatives also extend over the bridge into New Jersey. The DBL Center recently hired two new employees to help accommodate our rapid expansion and better serve our brokers. Lori Rose joins The DBL Center to serve our New Jersey brokers as Assistant Vice President of Ancillary Lines. Lori has been in the insurance industry specializing in employee benefits for over 25 years, with expertise in Group Life, Disability, Dental and Vision. We are excited that she is bringing her expertise and passion for insurance sales and service to DBL Center brokers.
In addition, Melissa Bilka has joined The DBL Center team as Benefits Coordinator. A newcomer to the insurance industry, with a degree in Mathematics Education from Long Island University, Melissa will assist our expanding Group Ancillary Department in providing the level of white-glove service our brokers and their clients have come to expect.
DBL Center App Goes Online
The DBL Center has always been on the cutting edge of technology, and as we enter the fourth quarter of 2017, this remains true. In addition to an upgraded database that will streamline operations in-house, we’ve launched our new app that helps our brokers manage their accounts from anywhere they might be working—in the office, at home, or on the road.
Look for Even More from Your Insurance Wholesaler
As we move into what promises to be our most exciting fourth quarter in our 40-year history, we have even more in store to help our brokers with a consultative approach to insurance sales. Stay tuned to our blog and sign up for our newsletter to stay on the forefront of industry developments and learn how to expand your book of business with minimal effort.
And about those Yankees? Through our partnership with Steiner Sports, we can help you set up celebrity appearances or even reward your best customers with once-in-a-lifetime sports experiences this autumn. From PFL to home plate, we’ve got you covered.