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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

New legislation broadens opportunities for brokers and DBL Center is ready

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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?