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.”
by Dawn Allcot
ComTon Inc. in Fairport, NY, specializes in Employee Benefits insurance for organizations with over 200 lives. Serving upstate and western New York, from Rhinebeck to Lake Placid and across the state to Buffalo and Rochester, ComTon has been in business since 1998. “Most of our business is through word-of-mouth and referrals,” says ComTon Principal Gregory D. Singleton.
“One of our biggest compliments is when we have an HR director or a finance person who leaves an organization we’ve worked with and moves to another organization and immediately brings us in,” adds Principal Rob Commisso.
ComTon has carved out a successful niche working with large organizations to provide employee benefits, including DBL / PFL, group life, health insurance, dental insurance, workers’ compensation, short-term and long-term disability, and other voluntary benefits. Unlike many brokers, ComTon offers packages for self-insured businesses and is certified by the state of New York as a third-party administrator of workers’ compensation and DBL / PFL benefits.
As an administrator for self-insured DBL policies, ComTon faced an unusual challenge when PFL was first introduced in the beginning of 2018. “Some of our self-insured clients weren’t necessarily comfortable with the unknown costs of PFL, so they wanted to pursue fully insured options,” recalls Commisso.
That’s when ComTon realized the true benefits of working with The DBL Center as their white-glove, white-label insurance wholesaler. “DBL Center provided us with a lot of help so we could offer our clients options for a fully insured program,” says Singleton. “Because DBL Center has such a big book of business and great relationships with the existing carriers, they were able to get us very good rates for our clients who wanted to move to a different carrier or to go from self-insured to fully insured.”
Singleton reveals that ComTon provided quotes for all their existing clients to transition to fully insured benefits, so that their customers could choose the best path for their situation. The DBL Center expedited the process, shopping around for the best rates.
ComTon clients who decided to switch to a fully insured program reaped the rewards of low rates as well as fast claim payments and the stellar service that ComTon has been known to provide to its self-insured clients for two decades. The DBL Center made it easy for ComTon to quote rates from a variety of carriers, write the policies, and deliver excellent service through top-name carriers capable of writing DBL policies with the PFL rider.
“DBL Center streamlined our quoting process for our DBL prospects and existing clients considering fully insured options,” says Singleton.
“But what it really came down to is the cost,” adds Commisso. “DBL Center was able to help us get better rates than we may have been able to do on our own, with a variety of carriers.”
He continues, “The whole team has been wonderful to work with, very responsive to our questions and our needs, and helpful in offering solutions or ideas we may not have thought of. 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.”
Singleton adds, “I thought we had a great knowledge of DBL coverage here at ComTon, and the DBL Center’s knowledge is as good—if not better—than ours.”
Hometown Insurance Agency, based in Bohemia, New York, has been serving Long Island, upstate New York, and parts of the New York tri-state area since 1979. Hometown provides a full line of insurance products, with a 50/50 split of personal and commercial customers. Hometown’s business insurance lines include individual and group health, ancillary benefits, and, of course, New York State mandatory DBL insurance.
Within that commercial demographic, Hometown serves a wide range of businesses, from Main Street small businesses to municipalities, fire departments, towns and villages, local libraries, as well as not-for-profit organizations, and larger companies including manufacturers and contractors.
But one thing is consistent in the way Hometown approaches every one of its clients. “One of the areas we pride ourselves on is educating our customers,” says Hometown President and CEO Rebecca Weber, noting that DBL coverage and especially Paid Family Leave still require a lot of attention when it comes to customer education.
“I still am convinced that not everybody is talking about it like they should be,” says Weber. “And that education we provide is what sets us apart. Most agents go in and are focused on the meatier parts of the policy, so it is very easy to overlook DBL coverage.”
She adds, “At Hometown, we’ve made it part of our routine. Our agents need to go in and talk about enriched DBL—and the new PFL rider is a great place to start.”
As a female executive in a male-dominated industry, Weber sees the appeal in the personal stories behind the groundbreaking and culturally significant benefit. “We have two family members who work in our company, in two different departments. When the mother returned after eight weeks taking care of her newborn, her husband was able to take time off. We see, as a company, how important this benefit is to our employees. To be able to share that story with our business owners really brings it home to them.”
Hometown Insurance Agency has worked with DBL Center for two generations; Rebecca’s father, Dan Weber, began doing business with DBL Center President Michael Cohen’s father, David, decades ago. “Our relationship has grown along with our management and ownership,” says the younger Weber, who took over leadership of Hometown in 2007.
Even as both companies have grown, they remain focused on personalized service. “In working with DBL Center, there is a sense of dealing with people that you trust, and people that you know. You’re not treated like a number,” says Weber. “Invariably, the service is absolutely wonderful and exceeds our expectations.”
Weber notes that DBL Center caters to small to mid-size agencies, providing not just exceptional service but bleeding-edge technology to help the agency operate more efficiently.
Hometown Insurance Agency is one of a handful of DBL Center brokers who have already previewed the proprietary Net Revenue Tracker (NRT) software.
“We are very excited to begin using the software,” says Weber. “We believe it is going to help streamline our process and be more efficient. Our reports will be more reliable.”
By automating renewal notifications and tracking functions, the software will free up employees who are currently focused on manual data entry so they can complete more complex, high-touch tasks.
“It’s a win-win for our agency,” Weber says. “And we are very fortunate to have access to the software and to have The DBL Center in our corner.”
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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.”