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.


The Rule of 72 and Why Your Customers Need Enriched DBL

In our last post, we spoke about using ancillary benefits to help reduce the financial stress that’s placed on employees.

This is especially crucial for employees in the New York tri-state area, which includes regions with the highest cost of living in the country. An accident or illness can leave an employee’s finances depleted. The New York State minimum for DBL coverage hasn’t kept up with inflation and isn’t enough to live on. In fact, the statutory disability benefit in New York has not increased since 1989.

The Rule of 72, for example, states that a specific dollar amount invested at an annual fixed interest rate of 10% would take 7.2 years to double. Yet, in 30 years the DBL benefit has remained the same.

Why not enrich DBL for a very low cost, ramping up the ROI on the investment?

Enriching DBL helps this important benefit keep pace with inflation to cover more of an employer or employee’s living expenses if they are ill or injured.

Consider the Needs of Your Customers

While it’s important to consider hourly workers who may be living paycheck to paycheck, it’s also important for brokers to consider the needs of company owners and top-level employees, including CEOs, CFOs, and HR managers, who make the buying decisions when it comes to employee benefits.

Of course, c-level executives want the best benefits for their employees to improve morale, maximize productivity, and aid recruiting and retention. But if you can also sell decisionmakers on the benefits that also serve their best financial interests, you’ll earn their lifelong trust.

Twenty years ago, Governor Mario Cuomo voted to increase the statutory disability benefit. His son, Andrew Cuomo, decided not to increase DBL. Instead, he introduced Paid Family Leave as a statutory benefit in New York.

But PFL – while it’s undoubtedly an important benefit – doesn’t apply to a vast majority of workers. Many middle-aged and older employees are past child-raising years and have already faced the loss of their parents. People in these demographics, especially middle managers and top executives, need benefits that will appeal to their needs.

Enriched DBL is a “set it and forget it” benefit. Once a business owner enhances their short-term disability benefits in New York, they will renew automatically each year. They aren’t likely to go back to the state minimum benefits.

Why Is Enriched DBL Such a Good Investment for Company Executives?

Many business owners and executives have savings and investments to cover a worst-case scenario such as an accident or illness that could leave them unable to work.

But, in fact, enriching DBL can be the smartest investment company leaders can make.

If it takes 7.2 years to double your income from investments at a rate of 10%, you don’t want to pull that money out to cover your living expenses.

Enriched DBL allows employers and employees – from c-level executives to hourly wage workers – to keep their savings where it is and receive a rate-of-return on their insurance premium that is far beyond any investment.

If a company enriches DBL by 5X, they will only pay $9.75/mo/male in premium and $11.50/mo/female, and if they need to make a claim, receive $850 per week for up to 26 weeks.

When you show your customers the math – and the benefit of leaving their investments growing – they will ask you to enrich DBL for their own financial peace-of-mind.

Build Relationships with the Right Advice

Smart insurance brokers are serving two customers – the employees who use the benefits, and the company owners and HR executives who are making the decisions on what benefits to offer.

When you can open doors to give them a low-cost, high-return benefit that appeals to employers and employees alike, you can gain trust and earn their business for life.

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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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Hawaii TDI: Did You Know Hawaii Offers Disability Insurance, Too?

Don’t miss the profit opportunities in selling Hawaii TDI

Most DBL Center brokers focus their business efforts in the New York Tri-state area, specifically New York and New Jersey. DBL coverage (Disability Benefits Law) insurance in New York and Temporary Disability Benefits (TDB) in New Jersey are lucrative insurance products, especially in New York where brokers can upsell New York business owners to an enriched DBL policy.
But many
brokers aren’t aware that Hawaii is one of only a handful of states that offer temporary disability insurance. And The DBL Center can connect you with Hawaii’s largest TDI carrier to provide Hawaii TDI to businesses.

Understand the Specifics of Hawaii TDI

To tap into the profit potential of TDI coverage in Hawaii, you’ll first want to understand the specifics of these coverage packages.

TDI benefits can last for up to 26 weeks total during the benefit year and begin after seven days of disability. Like NJ TDB and NYS DBL, benefits are payable for individuals who are ill or injured and unable to work, as long as the injury did not occur on the job. Employees must file a TDI claim within 90 days of the injury, unless they can provide a valid reason for the delay.

Like DBL and TDB, workers who file a TDI claim must have been employed immediately before the claim, including vacation time or PTO. In Hawaii, employees must have at least 14 weeks of employment totaling 20 hours per week or more and must have earned at least $400 in the 52 weeks before disability.

TDI benefits pay workers in Hawaii up to 58 percent of their average weekly wage up to the State of Hawaii maximum benefit amount, which was $620 in 2018. This is just slightly less than TDB in the State of New Jersey, and much more generous than New York’s DBL benefits before enrichment.

In fact, because TDB and Hawaii TDI are so similar, brokers may wish to pursue this market to expand their book of business. If you already sell healthcare in Hawaii, TDI is a logical cross-selling opportunity. If you have a large, national brokerage, selling Hawaii TDI can be a foot in the door to also sell healthcare coverage, group life, and ancillary benefits.

Let DBL Center Help You with Your Customers in Hawaii

Most of our brokers and industry colleagues know we moved our New York offices a few miles away to bigger building and larger office space in Melville.

But many people don’t know that DBL Center also has an office in Hawaii, where we provide more than 3,500 Hawaiian businesses with statutory TDI coverage and ancillary benefits.

If you run a national insurance agency with business customers who span the country, there is a wide-open market in Hawaii for TDI coverage. As with NJ DBL, there are a number of benefits for Hawaii business owners to move their policy from state-funded coverage to privatized TDI.

Helping Hawaii Insurance Agents Grow

If you are a Hawaii-based broker seeking to grow your book of business locally, we can help. We will be your back-office team to provide faster service and timely payouts. You’ll gain access to our state-of-the-art broker dashboard, permitting you to track cancellations, renewals, and commissions with just a few clicks. Our ancillary lines, including group life, vision, and dental, can help you increase commissions with highly coveted benefits.

Isn’t time to make the leap and start selling Hawaii TDI coverage? DBL Center will be your white-glove, white-label service provider and your back-office team to ensure your customers receive the service they expect and deserve.

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NJ State Disability Maximum Benefit 2019: Do Your Customers Know Their Rights?

Make sure your customers understand the NJ state disability maximum benefit 2019 and more

The NJ state disability maximum benefit 2019 is in full effect as of January 1, 2019, for workers who have become injured, disabled, or given birth any time within the 2019 calendar year.

The NJ state disability maximum benefit 2019 is $650 per week. The maximum benefit for 2019 is up from $637 in 2018. The new rate is applicable only for employees who make a claim in 2019 and is not available retroactively or for injuries or illnesses from 2018.

How Are NJ TDB Benefits Calculated?

The employee’s maximum weekly benefit amount is calculated based on two-thirds of their average weekly wage, based on earnings in the eight calendar weeks before disability began. The weekly wage may include overtime, tips, and cash value of other renumeration, such as employee bonuses.

If the average weekly wage is less than the average weekly wage for the past 26 weeks, the employment may request a recalculation in writing to the Division of Temporary Disability Insurance. This assures payment is fair and remains close to a living wage for the temporary disability benefits applicant.

Disability payments will not begin until seven days after the disability claim is filed and disability begins, and payments cannot exceed 26 weeks within one disability period. Covered government workers must first use all available sick leave.

If combined with renumeration from the employer, the weekly NJ maximum disability benefit cannot exceed the regular weekly wages immediately prior to the disability. For instance, if an employee is paid weekly, and goes out on disability mid-week between the pay cycle, his first disability check plus his next paycheck cannot exceed the prior weekly paycheck.

In addition to the new, higher NJ state maximum disability benefit for 2019, there are a few things your customers should know about NJ TDB, to ensure they are in compliance with New Jersey state laws and treating their employees fairly.

NJ TDB Regulations Your Customers Should Know

As an insurance broker in the state of NJ, whether you are selling health insurance, life insurance, or ancillary benefits, you can take this opportunity to help your customers understand NJ TDB compliance laws. This can help set up a conversation about the benefits of privatizing their TDB policies for enhanced benefits, faster payouts, and better service.

Employers and HR directors should know that a notice outlining employee’s rights under NJ TDB, including the NJ state disability maximum benefit 2019, should be posted in a place where all employees can view and read it, typically an employee break room or other gathering place.

Employees should also be informed about NJ temporary disability benefits when they are first hired, if an employee notifies the employer that they are taking time off for a situation that could be eligible for NJ TDB benefits, or any time an employee asks for information about their temporary disability benefits.

Does It Pay to Privatize TDB for Your Customers?

Many New Jersey business owners aren’t aware they can privatize TDB for better service and the equal (or better) benefits at the same rates.

The state of NJ is backed up on processing temporary disability claims, resulting in benefit delays. If an employee needs help filing the forms or isn’t sure which form to file, it can be difficult to reach someone in the State of New Jersey Department of Labor Division of Temporary Disability Insurance.

In addition, a private TDB policy gives your customers many other benefits, including disability payments in the form of direct deposit rather than a debit card. By privatizing their TDB package with a major carrier, they may be eligible for rate discounts on ancillary benefits, too.

As a broker, when you privatize your customers’ TDB and write the policies through DBL Center, you’ll gain access to our Broker Dashboard to track revenue, commissions, and renewals. Using our Broker Dashboard puts all your clients’ information in one place, under one password, in an easy-to-use app that you can access from your office or on-the-go from any mobile device.

Right now, only 2 percent of all businesses in New Jersey write their TDB policies through a private carrier.

The market is wide open.

The opportunity is there.

Start the conversation by letting your customers know about the new NJ state disability maximum benefit 2019. Then show them what they have to gain with private TDB coverage, because the advantages go far beyond the amount of money claimants receive.

Want more tools to help you sell NJ TDB? Check out our new NJ TDB Resource Center here.


Are You Selling DBL Coverage and Ancillary Benefits to Your Customers Who Need It?

Coastal Insurance offers tips to expand your book of business with strategic cross-selling of home insurance, DBL coverage, and ancillary products

By David Clausen, Coastal Insurance

If you’re like most P&C brokers, NYS DBL and NJ TDB insurance aren’t your only niches. Most brokers sell a variety of lines, whether it’s healthcare, business insurance, or personal lines of coverage like home insurance.

But you may not be thinking of ways to cross-sell your lines to expand your book of business and increase your commissions without cold calls or prospecting for new clients.

When you get in the habit of consultative selling, which includes getting to know your customers, their businesses, and additional insurance needs they may have, you’ll discover avenues to increased profits.

Mandatory coverage like workers’ compensation and NYS DBL coverage, along with enriched DBL, provide excellent upsell opportunities. Many business owners don’t realize they need this coverage even if they only have a few employees. Even if they know about statutory DBL coverage, they may not recognize the opportunities available with enriched DBL and ancillary benefits.

As their trusted insurance broker, you can help make sure they are protected from nearly any contingency. Chances are, you are already taking some of these steps. But are you closing the deal?

These tips, garnered from years of experience selling home insurance and other personal and business lines to Long Island-based customers, can help you expand your book of business.

1. Look for opportunities to upsell complementary insurance lines by getting to know your customers.

In Coastal’s niche market of home insurance for high-net-worth homeowners, many of our best clients also own their own businesses. This means they need workers’ compensation insurance and statutory disability coverage in New York State.

Ask your customers, “Who is currently writing your statutory DBL coverage?” to uncover opportunities.

With the introduction of Paid Family Leave as a rider to DBL, they might be looking to shop their policy around, since some carriers have stopped providing DBL.

2. Don’t forget about your customers who hire domestic employees.

Most Coastal customers who aren’t business owners are c-level executives, celebrities, and other high-net-worth individuals who may hire domestic employees to help run their households. A lot of people don’t know that workers’ compensation and NYS DBL coverage is mandatory in New York for full-time domestic employees or for domestic employees who live in your home, even if they don’t work a full 40-hour week.

This includes nannies, au pairs, housekeepers, gardeners, chefs, drivers, personal assistants, and anyone else who works for an individual. Even if people may treat their nannies or housekeepers like family, the State of New York classifies them as domestic workers or residence employees – and they need to be insured as such.

There can be hefty fines for failing to provide the proper insurance coverage for domestic workers, not to mention the liability if an employee gets hurts on the job. Brokers are doing a service to their customers by letting them know what employee coverage is required.

As with any job, providing ancillary benefits to domestic workers can also help improve retention rates and reduce sick time.

3. Discuss the potential for ancillary benefits.

Whether your customers are business owners seeking to hire the best employees, or individuals with a team of domestic help, they may not have considered ancillary benefits as a low-cost way to recruit and retain employees.

Benefits like Group Life, vision, and dental coverage are still highly sought after by workers. In a Harvard Business Review study, 88 percent of employees said they would consider accepting a job with a lower salary if the position had better health, dental, and vision benefits than the job with the higher pay.

Explore these possibilities with your customers, and they will look to you as a trusted business resource rather than just someone selling insurance products.

4. Educate your customers about enriched DBL.

NYS DBL coverage provides a bare minimum to help an employee who is ill or injured (while not on the job). DBL pays out just 50 percent of an employee’s salary up to $170 per week for 26 weeks.
Enriched DBL is a powerful retention tool for middle managers who exceed the maximum payout but may not have private disability insurance or a savings account to help get them through a medical emergency.

With the introduction of Paid Family Leave as a rider to DBL coverage in New York, many employers are looking to enrich DBL benefits in order to provide coverage comparable to PFL for employees who don’t have, or plan to have, families or may want a robust benefits package for themselves.

PFL was the big news in the insurance industry in 2018, but many people still aren’t aware of the policy changes. Stay on the forefront, educate your customers, and they will trust you to write their policies for personal and business insurance.

5. Offer the best rates by bundling coverage.

When you take advantage of The DBL Center’s carrier relationships, you can bundle lines to provide your customers with the best rates for DBL, ancillary benefits, and more.

Why would they go to any other broker if you’ve positioned yourself as a one-stop-shop for their business and personal lines of insurance coverage?


DBL Center Acquires DBL Advantage, Starts the New Year with Major Growth Initiative

Top New York insurance wholesaler announces the acquisition of DBL Advantage Etc. Ltd

Effectively immediately on January 1, 2019, the DBL Center Ltd. has acquired DBL Advantage Etc. Ltd., a New York-based licensed General Agency specializing in NYS DBL, Paid Family Leave,  NJ TDB and group ancillary benefits. The synergy between the two company’s insurance lines, as well as the mutual carriers and industry partnerships developed by both firms over several decades, made the acquisition the next logical step in The DBL Center’s growth.

DBL Center: Celebrating a Rich History and a Strong Future

The DBL Center was founded in 1976 by David J. Cohen. Now under the guidance and leadership of Michael Cohen, the company is one of the largest insurance wholesalers in the New York Tri-state area. In 2014, The DBL Center Ltd. acquired Combined DBL, a Long Island-based General Agency, to expand its ability to serve customers in the NJ TDB, NYS DBL, and group ancillary markets.

In addition to these noteworthy acquisitions, the past decade has brought unprecedented growth, market expansion, and new technologies to the company. The acquisition of DBL Advantage is a testament to, and a direct result of, DBL Center’s rapid expansion and market position.

How the Acquisition Will Affect NJ TDB and NYS DBL Brokers

Expanding The DBL Center’s market share and increasing the general agency’s leverage in the marketplace, the acquisition provides outstanding benefits to new and existing DBL Center brokers. The acquisition promises to strengthen the position of The DBL Center and its brokers in the statutory disability, PFL, NJTDB, and group ancillary markets, resulting in lower rates, higher commissions, and more options.

“The combination of premium between DBL Advantage and the DBL Center enables the DBL Center to provide brokers with higher compensation on new DBL and PFL business placed after the first of the year and moving on through 2019,” says DBL Center President and CEO Michael Cohen.

“New brokers that came to us as part of the acquisition will enjoy additional office staff to answer all their questions and to provide the full, white-glove back-office support DBL Center is known for,” Cohen says. “With generous commissions, multi-line discounts, and the most advanced technology available to P&C brokers, we have no doubt that our newest customers will view the acquisition as a favorable transition, and we welcome DBL Advantage brokers to the DBL Center family.”

White-Glove Support and the Latest Technology

The DBL Center will provide new customers with a designated account manager for over- and under-50 employee cases, as well as sales representatives to assist in the cross-selling of ancillary product lines.

“Working with DBL Center, brokers will discover multiple ways to round out their book of business and earn additional compensation through the sale of Group Life / AD&D coverage, group long-term disability, dental, and vision benefits,” Cohen says.

In addition, new brokers will gain free access to the DBL Center’s proprietary Broker Dashboard, a cloud-based app that enables brokers to track accounts and renewals, receive monthly reports on cancellations and reinstatements, and receive an earnings report on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis.

With the white-glove service brokers have come to expect for more than 40 years, along with the latest technology and innovative solutions to the challenges today’s NJ TDB and NYS DBL brokers face, DBL Center is ready to move to the next phase of growth.

“To say we are excited about the future is an understatement,” Cohen says. “As the NYS DBL and NJ TDB markets change and evolve, The DBL Center keeps pace, providing our brokers with all the support they need to thrive.”

 


Artificial Intelligence and the Future of P&C Insurance

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.

How Artificial Intelligence Can Help Insurance Brokers Increase Sales and Commissions

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. The new NRT software does all this and tracks 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 NRT may be able to analyze data faster, recognize relevant patterns, save brokers time, and potentially increase sales.

What Will the Broker Dashboard of the Future Look Like?

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.

Stay Ahead of the Curve

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.


Are You Losing Customers Because They Don’t Understand PFL Billing?

Paid Family Leave became a fact of life in New York very quickly. The statutory benefit, written as a rider to DBL coverage, is ethically responsible and financially needed for New York families. But business owners and brokers weren’t prepared for the mayhem that PFL billing would bring.

I sat down with our President and CEO Michael Cohen so he could explain the challenges of PFL and how DBL Center has found solutions to these challenges for its brokers.

What has been the greatest challenge you’ve faced with PFL?

Once we got past the initial customer education aspects of PFL – letting our brokers and their customers know about this new benefit – we faced the additional hurdle of PFL billing. The New York State government implemented this policy to be phased in over four years, without proper recourse when it comes to giving carriers or brokers the information they need to calculate costs or to bill DBL with a PFL rider correctly.

This has resulted in a higher than normal level of non-pay notifications. New York businesses, large and small, are having their DBL policies cancelled due to billing errors and inconsistencies stemming from this misinformation and miscommunication.

Here at The DBL Center, we are tracking our brokers’ policyholders who are currently in non-pay status, and sharing that information with the broker, so they can fix the issues and increase their book’s retention.

Writing new policies is one thing, but growing a business is not just about how much money you make – it’s about how much money you keep.

Tell us how The DBL Center has stepped in to support brokers and face these challenges around PFL billing?

Behind the scenes, the DBL Center has been working, just as our brokers’ accounting departments have, to find ways to accurately bill PFL.

I began an audit one year ago while coming up with a snapshot of my agency’s statutory book of disability in New York to have a benchmark of what to expect. This put me in a better position to finalize the Broker Dashboard and Net Revenue Tracker, which emanated from the manual methods my father, founder David J. Cohen was using to balance his general ledger.

I realized I could not only turn something antiquated around, but also convert the database we used for our audit into a free Dashboard given to my producers, allowing them to track revenue and policy status for DBL, PFL, and ancillary benefits.

The launch of the dashboard on September 26, 2018 represents an important piece in solving the PFL puzzle.

The Net Revenue Tracker, its more robust companion app, allows brokers to track all policies within their brokerage – not just those purchased through and managed by The DBL Center.

With the PFL rate going up by 24% in January, what can brokers expect in the future?

Quite honestly, if carriers can’t accurately bill PFL, our brokers will be looking at even more unhappy customers when the rate rises.

Our Broker Dashboard provides a solution. In addition to tracking revenue for DBL policies and ancillary benefits, the Broker Dashboard lets brokers know when a policy has been cancelled or is pending cancellation.

Sometimes, the customer has gone out of business, moved out of New York, or decided to move their business to another agency due to no fault of the broker. That’s important information for a broker to be aware of.

For those policies listed as “cancelled for non-payment” or “pending cancellation,” PFL billing errors may be to blame.

So the Broker Dashboard gives producers the information and knowledge they need. Where do they go from there? How can they fix those billing errors to retain their customers?

That’s where DBL Center can help. Thanks to our extensive knowledge of PFL and our relationships with carriers, we can get to the heart of your customers’ PFL problems. We can prevent those policies from cancelling or even have policies reinstated, while helping to preserve important customer relationships.

Your customers trust you. Our brokers can trust DBL Center to navigate PFL until the program starts to run itself, resulting in streams of reliable passive income.

Our Broker Dashboard helps you find out where you’re losing money, and DBL Center’s legendary white-glove service can help you make it right.

Aside from the obvious revenue, why is it so important for brokers to retain their DBL / PFL clients?

We know that implementing PFL hasn’t been the easiest thing our brokers have ever faced. We know this because the DBL Center has been tackling the same challenges. When our brokers make money, we make money. We’re all in this together.

You can continue to look at DBL as either a challenge – or an opportunity.

By continuing to sell DBL and letting DBL Center service the policies through our experienced back-office staff, you have the opportunity to show your customers the true value and worth of relying on your brokerage. Business owners need DBL and PFL coverage. If they don’t get it from you, they will find another broker willing to provide it.

You can use our Broker Dashboard to stay proactive and solve your customers’ PFL problems – potentially even before your policyholder is aware of an issue.

Let DBL Center help you provide your customers with answers to all their PFL billing questions, and you will maintain their trust. They will continue to rely on you for workers’ compensation insurance, major medical, and ancillary lines of coverage.

You’ll watch your bottom line continue to rise as your book of business grows.

It all begins with having the tools on hand to retain your current customers and our Broker Dashboard, combined with our white-glove customer service, can help our brokers stand out from the competition.

Want to learn more about Broker Dashboard and Net Revenue Tracker? Reach out to us now.


King Associates and DBL Center: Merging Entertainment and Business

For more than 35 years, storytelling and enthusiasm help sell insurance

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.