Is Virtual Selling Enough for Insurance Brokers?

We all know 2020 presented major challenges for insurance brokers. I discussed some of these challenges with Charles Callery, Regional VP for Lincoln Financial, and Michael Pelligrino, Lincoln Financial sales representative in the video, “Getting Creative in the Time of Covid-19.”

So much has changed this year – but adapting is an important part of success.

Heading into Thanksgiving we would look forward to The DBL Center’s Annual Holiday Party the first week in December. Of course, we aren’t holding the event this year due to the pandemic. 

A few months ago, I would have connected with brokers, carriers, and colleagues at our summer gathering. I’d been planning a get-together in Manhattan, instead of one of our usual Long Island venues. The location would have made it easier for those out of state to join in the fun and would have given my employees and favorite people a unique and memorable experience. (Needless to say, we had to cancel.)

We all understand that insurance is a commodity. We aren’t selling DBL or TDB or PFML, specifically. We are selling a white glove experience. Stellar customer service. State of the art technology. 

Aside from reduced premium rates and better, more flexible coverage, it’s the service that sets private disability insurance apart from the state plans.

And with that service comes perks for your best customers. Holiday parties. Sporting event or concert tickets. It’s all a part of the industry and it helps us build better relationships to grow loyal customers. After all, (you’ve heard it before) it’s not what you earn, it’s what you keep.

Connecting… Virtually

Insurance brokers can hold meetings by phone or video. We can host virtual Zoom gatherings, and even virtual Zoom happy hours to create a more casual environment for connection. But it’s still not the same as taking your favorite customers out for drinks, meeting courtside at a Knicks game, or sharing dinner overlooking the Long Island Sound.

As a father, I’ve watched my boys struggle with virtual schooling and being unable to see their classmates since March. Fortunately, they just went back full time. But we are all counting the days, knowing nothing is permanent as Long Island communities around us shift to “Yellow” status and… who knows what happens after that?

The teachers try their hardest to deliver a quality education online. But they are missing that personal connection. A hand on a shoulder. The nuances of facial expressions. Easy, convenient interaction without lag or household distractions. 

Insurance brokers, right now, face the same challenges as teachers in forging a personal connection with our customers. And, in the world of consultative selling, we do act as educators for our customers, imparting the information they need to make the best decisions for their businesses.

So what can we do to create personal connections when we can’t meet face-to-face?

Three Tips for Insurance Brokers to Connect to Clients During the Pandemic

Things are different right now. And not in a good way. But we have to keep going, just as teachers have done, to do our jobs and build success.

If you haven’t already done so, the pandemic is a good time to establish a strong digital marketing campaign. It’s more important than ever to deliver value to our customers and the business owners in our region.

Leverage email – Send touch-base emails more frequently than usual to stay front-of-mind. Mass emails that share helpful tips and information, as well as personalized emails to foster connections, are quick, easy, and effective to stay in touch with your customers.

Email generates $38 of revenue for every $1 spent, according to a Hubspot survey. Nearly 4 billion people use email daily. And 35% of online marketers send their customers 3 to 5 emails per week. So don’t worry about reaching out too often. You don’t want to be forgotten amidst all the other distractions your customers face every day.

Pick up the phone – As early as April 2020, just a month into the pandemic, workers started suffering from Zoom fatigue, which occurs due to the exhaustion of constant visual engagement forced by video calls. Instead of taking the extra time and energy to schedule a call and email the other party a conference link, pick up the phone for an old-fashioned voice conversation. 

This impromptu, casual conference can help create a better rapport, offering more time and energy for personal conversation. You might find a phone call is more efficient and, ironically, more personal and heartfelt, than a Zoom call initiated for the sole purpose of conducting specific business. 

Of course, arm yourself with the latest industry news to help customers understand how claims have changed in the time of Covid. As much as the personal connection, business owners will appreciate this type of valuable information and will rely on you as a trusted resource – which can result in future sales and upsells.

Plan for the future – We won’t always be on lockdown. The pandemic will end someday, especially with news of a vaccine on the horizon. 

Whether you’re on Zoom calls, the phone, or via email or social media, engage your customers with positive thinking and something to look forward to. Start talking about future plans for traveling when the pandemic ends. Even if you’re joking about putting meetings on the calendar for late 2021, you’re helping your customers see a light at the end of the tunnel.

This summer, as stores and restaurants started re-opening under strict guidelines, I kept saying, “Stop talking about a second wave.” I’m still saying it. Be realistic, but think positively, too. It’s all we’ve got right now as a community.

Are these virtual connections enough to keep customers and grow your book of business? Time will tell. What’s working for you? Drop me a line and let me know your thoughts. 


New York PFL vs. New York State Sick Leave Act: What Insurance Brokers Need to Know

 

New York insurance brokers may be getting questions from customers about the New York State Sick Leave (NYSSL) act, which went into effect September 30, 2020. However, employees cannot take paid sick leave through the state law until January 1, 2021, or at a time after that date if their employer requires them to accrue paid time off.

A direct result of the coronavirus pandemic to help contain the spread of the virus by encouraging employees to stay home, with pay, if they are not feeling well, the Paid Sick Leave Law mandates that employers of any size now provide paid sick leave to employees.

Unlike New York State DBL benefits or Paid Family Leave (PFL), New York State Sick Leave  (NYSSL) is funded entirely by employers through payroll. It is not an insurance benefit.

However, employers may have questions about when employees can use their paid sick leave and when they need to file a claim for DBL or PFL. It helps brokers to be aware of the new legislation to reduce unnecessary or unqualified DBL and PFL claims in New York.

New York PFL v. DBL v. NYSSL

The duration of NYSSL is much shorter than New York State’s short-term disability coverage or PFL coverage.

Here are a few other differences between the three types of leave:

DBL / Enriched DBL

DBL or enriched DBL insurance provides partial pay to employees who are seriously ill or injured and cannot perform their normal job functions for up to 26 weeks. The DBL Center can help you bind DBL & Enriched coverage under 50 lives easily online here.

New York State Paid Family Leave (NYS PFL)

Written as a mandatory rider  to statutory DBL coverage, PFL in New York provides partial pay to employees taking time off to care for an ill family member, a newborn (or newly adopted or newly fostered) child within the first year, or to manage family matters while a military spouse is deployed. The maximum duration for Paid Family Leave is 12 weeks. Learn more about New York State PFL coverage, first introduced in 2017, here.

NYSSL

Introduced in September 2020 and going into effect on January 1, 2021, Paid Sick Leave provides full pay for up to 56 hours (in some cases) for employees who are:

  • Sick or injured
  • Caring for family members who are sick or injured
  • Under quarantine due to possible exposure to COVID-19
  • Caring for minor family members under quarantine

The New York State Sick Leave law (NYSSL) also covers a host of other circumstances for which employees may need time off, including:

  • Preventative care
  • Mental health
  • Medical or mental health treatments
  • Domestic violence incidents

Other Differences You Need to Know About DBL/PFL and NYSSL

The reason for Paid Family Leave or DBL must be documented on the appropriate claims form. On the other hand, the reasons for taking NYSSL can remain confidential. Employers may not require employees to disclose any confidential information regarding their need for sick time.

In addition, the definition of a family member as it relates to paid sick leave extends beyond the PFL definition to include siblings, grandchildren, grandparents, and the children or parents of an employee’s spouse or domestic partner.

How Employers Can Issue New York State Sick Leave

Business owners in New York have a choice to “frontload” employees’ sick time at the beginning of the calendar year, offering paid sick leave from day one that the benefit goes into effect (January 1, 2021). Or, employers may permit employees to accrue sick time at a rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 or 56 hours in total – depending on the company size.

Employers with at least 100 employees must provide 56 hours paid sick leave. Employers with fewer than 100 employees or fewer than five employees but a net income of $1 million for the prior tax year must provide 40 hours paid sick leave.

Businesses with fewer than five employees but less than $1 million in net income must allow 40 hours of unpaid sick leave with no disciplinary action permitted for employees who take that time off without pay.

Should Your Customers’ Employees File a DBL or PFL Claim?

The decision for an employee to take paid sick time or to file a DBL or PFL claim largely comes down to the duration of the time off required and, of course, the reason. See below:

  • DBL insurance claims provide partial pay for severe illnesses or injuries that require more than a few days or a week out of work.
  • PFL, on the other hand, covers employees when they need to care for someone else for an extended time period of up to 12 weeks.
  • NYSSL offers full pay up to the amount of accrued sick time. It permits parents to stay home for a short duration with a sick or feverish child without losing a day’s pay. It also makes it financially easier for employees who are feeling under the weather to call out sick and avoid spreading germs.

Help Your Customers Understand the New Laws

Until now, Paid Time Off remained the choice of New York State business owners. Many companies provided generous PTO while others didn’t. Some small business didn’t even have a written policy but trusted their workers not to take unnecessary time off.

By standardizing PTO under the NYSSL, and outlining specific permissible reasons for sick time, New York State has eliminated confusion, miscommunication, or gray areas surrounding PTO.

By understanding the new law, you can help your customers reduce unnecessary DBL or PFL claims and continue to act as a resource for them when it comes to managing employee benefits.


DBL Center Gets Its Own App in the Apple Store

As we prepare to enter the fourth quarter, insurance brokers have had to contend with many changes and challenges. If you run an insurance agency, it’s more important than ever to be able to manage a remote workforce and give your producers the tools they need to do their jobs – in their office or at home.

A project two years in the making could not have come at a better time. It started two years ago with the introduction of the Broker Dashboard: Net Revenue Tracker.

Today, The DBL Center is pleased to announce the introduction of the Broker Dashboard app, available in the Apple Store.

Broker Dashboard: Net Revenue Tracker App for iPhone

Offering all the functionality of the Broker Dashboard desktop application, the Broker Dashboard app for iPhone and iPad puts the capability to track renewals, cancellations, and commissions at your fingertips.

Follow up with client renewals while you wait in the pick-up line at your child’s elementary school. Check on incoming commissions as you oversee distance learning at your dining room table. And when you come into the office, your Broker Dashboard comes with you.

You’re always informed, giving you the means to spot profit opportunities and increase commissions by giving your customers the products and information they need – when they need it.

Remote Workforce – Not Going Anywhere

It’s not going to be an easy autumn for many working parents or for insurance brokers still splitting time between their homes and the office. The Broker Dashboard technology can help bring you closer to your customers, wherever you might be.

Back in April at the height of the pandemic, a Gartner survey revealed that 75% of CEOs planned to move at least 5% of their employees to full-time remote even after the pandemic. The remote workforce is here to stay and embracing technology can help us to better cope with it.

How Flexibility Can Increase Productivity

With childcare challenges facing many parents as schools are now opening with distance learning or hybrid schedules – where children may attend school a few days a week and have remote learning the rest of the time – employers may have to provide more flexibility for working parents.

After all, you know the rules. Employees can’t claim NYS PFL for Covid-related illness, (if they have the ability to work from home, or a lack of childcare for students undertaking distance learning). But by creating flexible employee policies and ensuring your employees can be productive wherever they are, you may be able to reduce erroneous PFL claims and also minimize Covid-related claims under the federal Families First Act. (You can read more about PFL and the FFA here.)

Just like many other businesses, the DBL Center team faces the challenges of a remote workforce and children’s school schedules that don’t coincide with typical, established workplace schedules. Through technology, resilience, and understanding, we continue to thrive and offer high levels of service to our brokers and their clients.

We’re excited to give our brokers the same opportunities to embrace change with the Broker Dashboard app and other tools.

The DBL Center: Always Your Back Office Staff

The DBL Center provides workplace flexibility for our employees as we adapt to these times. But that doesn’t change our availability for our brokers when they need us. We are always available as your back-office staff to assist.

And now, with the Broker Dashboard app for iPhone and iPad, the tools you need are just a touch away. Watch the video to learn more about using your exclusive Broker Dashboard app here, and reach out if you have any questions.

 


Family and Medical Leave Act: New York PFL Rate Change Announcement

NYS PFL rate and benefit increase goes into effect January 1, 2021As per the original legislation for the NYS Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, New York has announced a rate change and benefit increase for NYS PFL to go into effect January 1, 2021.

Beginning in 2021, employees can collect up to $971.61 through NYS PFL benefits. This increase completes the phased introduction of the Paid Family Medical Leave in New York that took place over the past three years.

In accordance with the rate increase comes a premium increase of 87% – from 27 cents to 51 cents. Out of that total rate, .005% is to fund the PFL quarantine payments.

History of NYS PFL

First introduced in 2017 as a mandatory benefit written as a rider to statutory short-term disability in NY, Paid Family Leave in NY will be fully phased in by January 1, 2021. At that time, the benefit will provide 67% of an employee’s Average Weekly Wage (up to the NYS PFL maximum amount) for up to 12 weeks to:

• Bond with a newborn, adopted or foster care child joining their family in the past 12 months
• Care for a seriously ill family member
• Manage the home while a spouse is deployed

Brokers can use our handy PFL calculator in our Paid Family Leave Resource Center to determine their customers’ premium payments.

Helping Your Customers Understand the Difference Between NYS PFL and Paid Family Leave for Covid-19 in NY

It’s important to understand that employees cannot claim NYS PFL for coronavirus. If schools close again in the fall, leaving parents with few childcare options, they cannot claim NYS PFL for coronavirus to stay home with their children.
However, the Families First Act for pandemic may entitle employees to certain benefits if they are unable to work due to school closures because of an outbreak or because of quarantine measures.

According to the Department of Labor, covered employees may receive:

• Two weeks paid sick leave at the employee’s regular pay rate if they are quarantined or experiencing coronavirus symptoms
• Two weeks paid sick leave at 2/3 pay to care for a person who is quarantined or to care for children under 18 whose school or childcare provider is closed due to coronavirus
• Up to 10 weeks paid expanded family and medical leave in New York at 2/3 the employee’s regular pay to care for a child whose school or childcare provider has closed due to the pandemic. For an employee to qualify for extended leave, they must have 30 calendar days of employment on record.

To help mitigate unauthorized PFL claims, The DBL Center has introduced a Covid-19 claims pre-screening software for carriers.

Is It Time for Your Customers to Enrich DBL?

The rate increase for NYS PFL puts an even wider gap between disability insurance in NY payments and PFL rates. As you notice your customers about the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act increase, it’s a great time to remind them to enrich DBL coverage for:

• Faster, more flexible payouts
• Increased benefits
• Additional in-hospital coverage as an option

The NYS DBL rate remains at just a $170 per week for 26 weeks. Enriched DBL can offer up to 60% salary replacement, with weekly maximums between $200 and $850. Plus, you’ll get the service you expect from The DBL Center and access to our Broker Dashboard: Net Revenue Tracker to manage your accounts seamlessly from anywhere you might be working.

If you or your customers have any questions regarding the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act – New York premium and rate increase, reach out today. In these uncertain times, The DBL Center is here to help you navigate PFL claims in NY, retain customers, and increase commissions.


New York and New Jersey Announce New Premium Rates and Coverage

Father and son on beach

As we return to our offices following Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end of summer, the New York and New Jersey state insurance departments have made some important announcements for business owners and insurance brokers in the two states.

Read on to find out the new premium rates and coverage levels for Statutory Disability and Paid Family Leave plans across the U.S., New Jersey Temporary Disability Benefits (TDB), and New Jersey Family Leave Insurance (FLI).

New York Announces New PFL Employee Contribution

As announced in early 2017, New Yorkers can receive up to 60% of their average weekly wage for up to 10 weeks to care for and bond with a newborn (less than one year old) or newly adopted or newly fostered child, to care for an ill or aging family member, or to take care of the household while a military spouse is deployed. The increased benefit (up from 55% in 2019) comes with an increased premium of 0.270% of an employee’s wages each pay period, not exceeding an annual maximum employee contribution of $196.72.
These rates make NYS PFL benefits some of the most generous in the country. Take a look at this chart to compare benefits and premiums across the U.S.

Policy forms and rate submissions are due October 1, 2019. If you need assistance with PFL coverage for any of your customers, the DBL Center is here to help. As your white-glove, white-label back office staff, we want to make it as simple as possible for your customers to phase in PFL coverage as a rider to their DBL policy and provide you with opportunities to enrich DBL coverage to offer benefits that make good financial sense for all your customers.

New Jersey Announces New Employee Rate for 2020

The New Jersey state insurance fund has also introduced a rate hike increase for 2020, from 17 cents to 26 cents for every $100 in taxable wages. Earlier this year, New Jersey introduced expanded Family Leave Insurance (FLI) benefits as part of its TDB package.

Under the new FLI regulations, the benefits period has expanded from six weeks to 12 weeks, beginning July 1, 2020. In addition, the definition of “family” has increased to include any blood relative of the employee or any individual shown to have a close association that is the equivalent of a family relationship with the employee.

In addition to the rate hike increase, the limit on wages on which taxes are levied for TDB and FLI has increased from 28 times the statewide average weekly wage ($33,700) to 107 times the statewide AWW (approximately $131,100), beginning January 1.

Concurrent with the rate hike, the maximum TDB or FLI benefit has also increased, from $638 to $860 per week. Partial TDB benefits will also be available.

Good News for New Jersey Insurance Brokers

The New York premium and benefits increase is predictable and in line with prior increases since the introduction of PFL. A broker’s best move continues to be selling enriched DBL to provide a benefit that makes sense to top company executives and decision makers within an organization.

The New Jersey hike represents an opportunity for New Jersey insurance brokers to beat the state rate, while providing benefits equal to or better than the state insurance fund, with a higher level of customer service. When New Jersey waived the signature requirement earlier this year, it became easier than ever to get businesses to switch to privatized TDB.

This is the moment New Jersey insurance brokers have waited for; when you break it down, you realize it’s here because of New York’s generous PFL policy.

With family leave enhancements sweeping across the Northeast, employers will want to find ways to stay competitive and recruit working families, millennials, and the future generations of employees. Robust yet low-cost benefits packages, especially in the face of an impending recession, remain one of the best ways to recruit and retain top talent.

Give us a call to take advantage of the white-glove service and support DBL Center offers our tri-state area brokers and expand your book of business as we head into autumn.


NYS Brokers: Are You Prepared for PFL in 2019?

What brokers, HR directors, and company executives need to know about PFL in 2019


The new year is almost upon us, and that means more changes for HR directors, business owners, and insurance brokers in New York, once again, as they get up to speed on PFL in 2019. Look for PFL contributions to increase along with the payout and total weeks of leave permitted with benefits.

What’s New for PFL in 2019

PFL benefits will be phased in until they reach the maximum payout of 67 percent of an employee’s Average Weekly Wage for 12 weeks in 2021.

For 2019, the maximum allowable deduction will be 0.153 of the employee’s average weekly wage. Benefits will equal 55% of an employee’s AWW for 10 weeks, up from eight weeks in 2018. The benefit will max out at $746.61 weekly.

It’s important to note that wages are no longer taken with a weekly max. If someone is making $3000 a week, they will pay $3000 x $.00153 – $4.59 weekly deduction until their salary reaches the $70,569.72 max. Then they stop paying for the year.

You can use our handy PFL calculator to determine PFL premiums for your company – or for your customers – based on the number of employees eligible for PFL and the total annual payroll base.

What Brokers and HR Professionals Need to Know About PFL in 2019

Policyholders will have to reconcile PFL premiums for 2018 as part of the necessary premium calculation steps, similar to how it is done for DBL. Brokers who use the DBL Center’s free broker dashboard can easily help their customers reconcile premiums with figures from the database.

If you need help with this important step, contact the DBL Center for guidance on setting up and using the Broker Dashboard to calculate premiums, track renewals and cancellations, and much more.
In addition to the above changes, the state of New York has provided new DBL and PFL posting notices to hang in a prominent spot where employees can view them.

HR directors and company owners should ask their brokers for a new 120 Posting Notice and a DB120.1 Certificate of Insurance.

DBL Center brokers can contact our office for links to these forms to provide to your clients.

Keep Learning About PFL

2018 was a transition year for DBL brokers in New York, and PFL proved to have a steep learning curve.

The DBL Center has provided the resources our brokers need to stay on top of PFL, including webinars, handouts, and our online PFL resource center.

Be prepared to answer all your customers’ questions about PFL in 2019 by browsing our Paid Family Leave Resource Center, which has been updated for the new year.

You may also like these articles that can help your customers better understand PFL in the workplace:

Learn how PFL and DBL are related, but different: DBL vs PFL

Learn how PFL is different from FMLA: PFL vs. FMLA

Help your customers ensure they are in compliance with DBL: PFL Compliance

Calculate PFL premiums for 2019: PFL Calculator

Remember, the DBL Center is here to help answer all your questions about PFL in the new year.