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May 31
Big I New York Honors Outstanding Industry Members & Companies

Big I New York, the state's premier association for insurance agents and brokers, hosted Go Big 2019​, a new event for the insurance industry featuring sessions on agency valuation and cybersecurity, a panel of carrier leaders, an industry marketplace, and more on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 in Tarrytown, New York. Outstanding industry members, organizations, and companies were honored at the event.

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AWARD RECIPIENTS

1882 Award 
James D. Sutton, CPCU, AAI, CIC

Thom McDaniel Exemplar Award 
Joseph Headd, CPCU

The Vincent Alba Award 
Ronald Brunell, CIC

Distinguished Service Award 
Big I New York Staff

Joel S. Pollack Next Gen Agent of the Year 
Nicholas Campbell

ACSR of the Year 
Lexie Dumont, ACSR

Local Association of the Year 
Big I Westchester

Top Carrier Partners 
Over $100 million in NY written premium 
Selective
Under $100 million in NY written premium 
Sterling Insurance Group​
May 31
Rye Brook Insurance Leader John Cofini Elected Big I NY Chair of the Board
​(Tarrytown, New York, May 23, 2019) - Big I New York, the state’s premier independent insurance producer trade association, this week elected John Cofini as its chair of the board for the 2019-20 term. Cofini was sworn in during a May 21 ceremony at Big I New York’s Go Big 2019 event, held at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Tarrytown in Tarrytown, New York.​
Cofini is principal of BNC Insurance Agency, Inc., an insurance brokerage founded in 1993 and located in Rye Brook, New York. A member of the Big I New York board of directors since 2015, he is a member and past president of Big I Westchester, which represents independent insurance agents and brokers in Westchester County. He worked for an insurance company before joining Milbrandt Insurance as a producer and officer. Milbrandt merged with BNC Insurance Agency in 2014. A graduate of Iona College in New Rochelle, New York, he resides with his family in Nanuet, New York.
 
After his installation, Cofini shared, “Independent insurance agents and brokers are relevant. The change that’s surfacing is in the tools.” He emphasized “the need to shift to a growth mindset where we understand the value of our businesses, embrace technology and engage with carriers to enhance what we deliver to our customers.” The new chair declared that “Big I New York believes independent agents serve customers best, and we will continue to champion them in all we do.”

Big I New York members elected David MacLachlan, CPCU of Dominick Falcone Agency and Falcone Associates in Syracuse, New York to serve a one-year term as vice-chair and secretary-treasurer. Lane Rubin of The Excelsior Group in Valley Stream, New York was elected to a two-year term as a member representative to the Nominating Committee. Members also elected or re-elected the following individuals to serve two-year terms on the Board of Directors:

  • Ronald Brunell, CIC of Acrisure, LLC doing business as The Signature B&B Companies in Garden City, New York
  • David Bodenstein of Mike Preis, Inc. in Callicoon, New York
  • Marianne B. McCormick, CPCU, AAI, AIS, AAI-M of Insurance Office of America in Binghamton, New York
  • Victor Rutecki of Rutecki Agency in West Seneca, New York
  • Nicholas C. Masterpole, Jr. of Masterpole Murphy Agency in Syracuse
May 31
Big ‘I’ Statement on NFIP Reauthorization

​WASHINGTON, D.C., May 30, 2019 —The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I") released the following statement by Charles Symington, Big “I" senior vice president of external, industry & government affairs, on the Congressional reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) before the May 31 deadline:

“The Big 'I' is relieved that Congress was finally able to extend the NFIP before the program expires on May 31. However, we are disappointed that the extension is only for two weeks.  Both chambers of Congress had previously passed legislation that would extend the NFIP through Sept. 30 in an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion. Yet, brinksmanship from a few members of Congress brought us to the eve of an expiration and left more than five million policyholders and countless others who depend on the program with only a two-week extension of the NFIP. With historic flooding in the Midwest and hurricane season upon us, it is vital that Congress passes a longer-term extension of the program when it returns to session next week to provide more certainty for consumers."

Founded in 1896, the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I") is the nation's oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing more than 25,000 agency locations united under the Trusted Choice brand. Trusted Choice independent agents offer consumers all types of insurance—property, casualty, life, health, employee benefit plans and retirement products—from a variety of insurance companies. ​

May 30
This Week in Albany – Single Payer, Anti Arson, Liability Expansion, and Lead Paint Exclusions

imageOnly three full weeks of legislative session remain, and Big I NY's government relations team has been busy at the capitol in Albany, representing our members' interests on a number of critical issues.

On Monday, the Senate and Assembly held the first of a series of public hearings on single payer healthcare legislation. Big I NY submitted testimony in opposition to the proposal, citing ​Nick Masterpole at Senator Antonacci's Roundtable.pngreduced choice for consumers and high costs to taxpayers and businesses. On Friday of last week, Big I NY board member Nick Masterpole from the Masterpole-Murphy Agency in Syracuse participated in a single payer roundtable hosted by Senator Robert Antonacci (R, Syracuse), where he spoke out about the concerns of the independent agency community.

On Wednesday, legislation to repeal the anti-arson application in NYC passed the Assembly by a vote of 113-0. New York City is the last remaining jurisdiction where this burdensome and outdated application is required. This issue was one of our key issues at Independent Agents Advocacy Day this year, and we are thrilled that our efforts are paying off. The legislation must now be passed by the Senate and signed by the governor. We have met with Senator Sanders, the bill's sponsor, and are working to get the bill to a vote in the coming weeks.

On Thursday, a bill which could significantly increase independent agencies' liability exposure by allowing lawsuits for an expansive array of “unfair, abusive, or deceptive" business practices passed a vote in the Senate Consumer Protection committee. We continue to strongly oppose this bill, and launched a call-in campaign which bombarded the Committee Chairman's phone lines with over one hundred calls and voicemails. We are coordinating with a large coalition of insurance and business groups to do anything and everything possible to defeat the bill. Keep an eye on your inbox for more opportunities to voice your opposition as this campaign continues.

Legislation​ to expand the categories of damages which a plaintiff may recover in a lawsuit for alleged wrongful death​ passed the Assembly Judiciary Comittee. Big I NY opposes this legislation as it would have a significant impact on New York's insurance market. A recently-released study found that the bill could lead to an 12.6% average increase in annual premiums for New York policyholders, or $2.2 billion. 

Also this week, Big I NY made the decision to oppose legislation which would prohibit the use of lead paint exclusions for rental property coverage. If enacted, no new exclusions would be approved. Existing exclusions would be grandfathered in for a maximum of 26 months before being invalidated. We are concerned that this would significantly reduce the availability of such coverage, particularly for 1-4 family homes, as well as increasing premiums. 

Contact Scott Hobson with any questions.


May 22
DFS Appoints Deputy Superintendent of New Cybersecurity Division

imageActing DFS Superintendent Linda Lacewell has appointed Justin Herring as Executive Deputy Superintendent of the Department’s newly created Cybersecurity Division. The new Cybersecurity Division will enforce the Department’s cybersecurity regulations, advise on cybersecurity examinations, issue guidance on DFS’s cybersecurity regulations, and conduct cyber-related investigations in coordination with the Consumer Protection and Financial Enforcement Division. Herring also serves as Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of New Jersey’s Cyber Crimes Unit, supervising all cybercrime cases in the District of New Jersey​.

This is the latest indication that the Department intends to aggressively enforce the state's cybersecurity regulation, which applies to all entities licensed by the  DFS. As a reminder, Big I NY members have free access to a wealth of resources and guidance to help you comply with this complex regulation. 


May 20
On Mary's Mind: Gender Transitions and Personal Auto Quotes

By Mary Byrnes​AAI-M, AU​, Director of Education

As you know, we get all kinds of calls for information from members.  They include technical policy, licensing, insurance law, and other questions that really put us to the test.  This week brought a really interesting question on personal auto. 

A prospective insured inquired about a personal auto quote stating that their gender was male.  The quote was presented to the person who then said that they were transitioning to female and wanted a quote based on that.  The quote was given and surprisingly enough, it was higher than the male quote.  Of the 2 quotes, of course, they wanted the quote for a male.

The question is, when presented with this scenario, what do you do?  

The MVR actually holds the answer.  Whatever the gender is on the MVR is the one that should be used.  

But forward thinking, it is on the policyholder to inform the agent or carrier of any name or gender change.  That change has to be submitted to the DMV including a gender change and a name change if applicable.  Once that change is made, the agent or the carrier should be notified and the policy endorsed. 

Of course, this sent us on to a discussion on why rates for females were higher than males in a given territory.  It challenged what we assumed was still the case from when we took our first insurance courses.  But that's a topic for another day.​

Have a question that you think might stump us (that's not a hypothetical claim scenario), let us know.​

May 10
On Mary's Mind: What can an unlicensed person do in the agency?

By Mary Byrnes​AAI-M, AU​, Director of Education

E&O training seems to have taken on a life of its own recently.  There is a renewed interest of agencies in really making sure that their teams are up to speed on what they need to watch out for.  This could be for a variety of reasons: because there’s a concerted effort to put E&O exposures at the forefront to avoid claims; the discount applied to E&O coverage; it’s a great way to earn the 4 CE credits for all licenses; or all of the above. ​

The truth is that E&O claims bite.  They disrupt the lives of the people within an agency with the angst they cause, it takes a lot of time and effort to produce the documentation usually required when a subpoena is presented, and you usually end up with an unhappy client.  It's bad all the way around.  We could all live without staff walking around with a cloud over their head worrying about something that went wrong.

In a past Annual Big I NY E&O seminar, they covered the topic of “What can an unlicensed person do in the agency?"  We're unearthing a handy chart that lays it all out - but it's just one small part of the range of information covered in the seminars. 

It's a great thing to attend a Big I NY 2019 Annual E&O Seminar or Webinar.  We've got Hauppauge & Rye Brook locations coming up this week!  Then a little later in the month, there's Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse & Utica locations available.  And don't forget the webinar option on 6/6/19 (if you'd like a group-view option on the webinar email me at mbyrnes@biginy.org) .

Register now!  Get the latest on E&O, the E&O renewal discount (attendance requirements are on the website), and you get the 4 CE credits for ALL Licenses.  By attending, you'll be assured of getting all of the latest tips & tools that will be included.  Plus there's the added benefit of a little paranoia goes a long way, that's my motto to keep my head in the game.

Here's the promised chart on what an unlicensed person can and shouldn't do within an agency (brought you compliments of Tim Dodge of Big I NY & Keidel, Weldon & Cunningham). Click on the image to see it full-sized.

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May 09
Cybersecurity - A Real Life Example

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New York's Cybersecurity Requirements For Financial Services Companies regulation is more than two years old now. Big I New York has provided extensive materials to help New York licensed producers comply. One thing we haven't discussed, though, is why the New York State Department of Financial Services concluded that the regulation was necessary.

In the introduction to the regulation, the department noted the "growing threat posed to information and financial systems" by a variety of bad actors. "Given the seriousness of the issue and the risk to all regulated entities, certain regulatory minimum standards are warranted," they wrote.

This talk of threats can all seem very theoretical. Today, I learned of a concrete example that affects Big I New York and, indirectly, you, at least if you ever ask me questions.

No, we have not been hacked. I want to make that crystal clear. However, we subscribe to a database service that includes many of the laws and regulations of the states of New York and Connecticut. Not wanting to embarrass our vendor, I won't identify it, but I can tell you we pay hundreds of dollars a year for this service.

It's a great service. If you've ever called or emailed me to ask whether something is legal, you've benefited from our subscription.

And last weekend they suffered a malware attack, or at least that's what their public statements have said.

This is a very large company that provides a lot of databases for a lot of industries. The malware hit some of their servers but not all. However, to contain the damage, they took all of their servers down and performed forensics. Their statements say that they are slowly bringing each of their services back online, but it's not a quick process.

How does this affect Big I New York? I haven't been able to use that database all week. When I try to load the home page, I get a plain white screen with the words "Database not available" on it.

How does this affect you? Depending on your question, I may or may not be able to give you an answer. There are some New York laws and regulations of which I've made personal copies. In fact, many of them are posted in the Answer Center of our website. And there are some that I've referred to so many times over the years that I can quote them in my sleep.

Others? Not so much. There are some laws and regulations I rarely if ever have to look at because I don't get questions about them. But you know what Mr. Murphy said: If someone wants to know what the required nonrenewal notice period is for an individual long-term disability policy, this will be the week they'll ask. And I'm afraid I haven't memorized that answer.

So a large company is a victim of cybercrime, and as a result I might not be able to get you an answer as quickly as you need. There are alternate sources online for this material, but searching those sources is much more cumbersome. I'm hoping to get my database back soon. So far, no one has had an urgent need, but it's a matter of time.

This is why cybersecurity matters. It affects real businesses and real people.  Reasonable people can differ on the best way to implement it (I certainly have my quibbles with the regulation's requirements,) but I don't think anyone can dispute that we need to protect our networks. This week, the threat isn't so theoretical. 

May 03
On Mary's Mind: Licensing-It's All in the Name

By Mary Byrnes​AAI-M, AU​, Director of Education

Who knew that names could be such a big issue?  It runs the gamut from an individual name to the ramifications of an agency name.  The NYS DFS is really clear, business can only be transacted under the current licensed name.  What's the issue with being a sole proprietor?

For an individual, if a name changes for any reason, you must still use your licensed name to conduct insurance business.  Well, what does that mean?  If Susie Singleton gets married and her new name is Susie Weddington, until she changes the name on her license with the DFS, she must continue to do business as Susie Singleton.  This includes email signatures and any other paperwork needs to be conducted under Susie Singleton.  Not even hyphenating  to Singleton-Weddington would do the trick. 

How to change an individual license name:  Submit a request to the licensing@dfs.ny.gov and include proof of the name change (marriage license, court document, etc.)  When you get the revised license from the DFS, you'll be good to go!

For entities, the same holds true, you can only do business under the entity license name.  For instance, if the agency's license name is Arnold Agency, you're stuck with it.  You can't put Arnold Insurance Agency on a sign, a webpage, letterhead, business cards etc.  You could put Arnold Agency, an insurance agency as a tagline, but not in the name.  If you want to change the agency name, you'll need to request a change through the DFS (licensing@dfs.ny.gov) with the email subject line as Name Change Request.  The DFS will then approve or disapprove the change and send you to your county clerk to get the name approved for a DBA or to the Department of State for an LLC or Corporation name change.  After you get that done, it's back to the DFS with the supporting paperwork.

Sole Proprietorships are an entity type choice.  Licenses are issued in the name of the sole proprietor alone or with a TBA (trading business as) name.  Why is important that you care?  Sole Proprietorships have no shield between personal assets and business assets that are owned under the same name.  What does that mean?  Suppose there's an E&O claim that has an award that surpasses the E&O limit, the E&O pays the limit, but the amount over the limit, it rests with the sole proprietor personally.  The house, the cars, the boat, the camp, the office assets are all at risk.

Partnerships, although not as common as sole proprietorships have some of the same entity type complications.  Personal assets of the partners are at risk as well as the business assets that are in the same name.  But there's a little difference.  If one partner lives in a nice house in a nice neighborhood and has a nice savings account and the other partner lives on the wrong side of the tracks in a shack and has no savings, the assets of both are at risk regardless of the difference in assets between both.

This isn't a discussion of the tax implications of a sole proprietorship or partnership vs. an LLC or corporation, because there are some. That topic is better discussed with someone far better suited to have it.

May 03
Bill to Ban Non-Competes Faces Committee Vote on Monday
imageLegislation (A.7193) which would ban the use of non-compete agreements (NCAs) for employees earning $75,000 or less annually, and impose requirements on their use for higher-earning employees passed the Consumer Protection Committee earlier this week, and is headed for a vote in the Codes Committee on Monday.

This is legislation would have serious impacts on the independent agency community. Take a minute to tell your state assembly member to vote NO on this bill!​​

The key provisions  are:

  • A complete prohibition on the use of non-compete agreements for any employee earning $75,000 or less (adjusted annually for inflation). The bill does not specifiy if this includes commissions, or is strictly base salary.
  • Impose new requirements for the use of NCAs with employees earning over $75,000 per year:
    • All NCAs must be written and signed by both employee and employer
    • A NCA must be provided to a prospective employee the earlier of a formal offer of employment or 30 days before the NCA goes into effect
    • Any NCA with a current employee must be provided 30 days before it goes into effect
    • The NCA is no longer enforceable if the employee is terminated without cause
    • Employees have a private right of action to sue their employer for violations of these requirements. The court is empowered to void the NCA, as well as award damages, attorneys fees, lost wages, etc.
We have issued a memo of opposition to this bill, and are working to stop it or amend it to minimize the impacts on our members. 


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