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Sep 27
On Mary's Mind: So I have a Maserati

By Mary Byrnes​AAI-M, AU​, Education Department​​

So I have a Maserati GT Convertible; it is cherry red and revs to an impressive 7,500 rpm.  It's gorgeous and turns heads (it's also a figment of my imagination, but stay with me on this). 

Would you like to rent it for a few days, maybe drive around town, impress a few people?  Did you know that with peer to peer car sharing, you can do that?  You can find a Chevy for about at about $65/day, but there's also a Rolls at $1000/day.  So far, we've received calls or emails from agency members in and around NYC and Long Island but the concept is likely to catch on.

The devil, of course, will be in the details.  Hate to rain on anyone's parade, but the whole insurance thing might not be as easy as it sounds on the sample rental agreement. Also, there are a lot of stipulations in the agreements about usage, who, where, how and to what extent are all spelled out. 

As Tim Dodge's recent video Two Minutes with Tim-Car Sharing illustrated there's a lot to consider.  If you get a call from an insured that either wants to rent out their vehicle to or rent an auto from a peer to peer car sharing arrangement, read their policies, it's unlikely that you'll find coverage and more likely that you'll find an exclusion.  Is coverage offered through the car sharing operation and is it adequate or bare bones. 

At this point, even if you don't think that it's an issue where you are, your clients travel and they might see it as a cool option.  After all, it's hard to think about the insurance ramifications when they're blinded by that shiny red Maserati GT Convertible!

Whoever thought that, in addition to asking about whether an insured does ride sharing, we'd need to ask about car sharing?  I'm hesitant to ask, “What's next?"

Sep 26
Two Minutes With Tim - New York Auto Photo Inspections - Does the Insurer Need the Window Sticker?

​In this video, I answer members' questions about demands one particular insurer has started making when it comes to waiving the inspection for a new car.


Sep 26
Big "I" Applauds House Passage of Financial Services Cannabis Bill

SAFE Banking Act provides significant legal protections for insurance agents and brokers.

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 25, 2019 -- The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I") thanks the U.S. House of Representatives for passing legislation which would protect agents and brokers who write insurance coverage for legitimate cannabis-related businesses from criminal prosecution and civil liability. H.R. 1595, the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act overwhelmingly passed the House with a vote of 321-103. 

“The Big 'I' applauds the House of Representatives for passing the SAFE Banking Act and taking the steps necessary to protect agents and brokers," says Charles Symington, Big “I" senior vice president of external, industry & government affairs. “The Big “I" especially wants to thank Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado) and Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) for their leadership on this important legislation."

Under current federal law, the cultivation, possession and distribution of marijuana is illegal, except for some limited research purposes. However, at the state level, all but a handful states permit medical marijuana use in some capacity, and several states now allow the sale of marijuana for recreational purposes.

“Now that the legislation has passed the House, the Big 'I' encourages the Senate to take action on cannabis legislation," says Joseph Cortina, Big “I" director of federal government affairs. “Specifically, we encourage Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) to consider the SAFE Banking Act."

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.​

Sep 26
Big ‘I’ Reaction Mixed on Overtime Rule

National insurance agents association cites “improvement" from previous regulation.

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 25, 2019 — Members of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I"), along with other employers, will have just under 100 days to comply with a final overtime rule announced yesterday by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Effective January 1, 2020, the rule sets the minimum salary threshold for overtime eligibility at $35,568. The regulations implement the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)'s overtime mandate and will make an estimated 1.3 million additional U.S. workers eligible for overtime pay.  

“While not perfect, the final rule is a significant improvement over the overtime rule proposed during the Obama administration, which would have caused a significant increase in direct compliance costs and paperwork burdens for our small business members as well as significant losses in productivity for the economy," says Charles Symington, Big “I" senior vice president of external, industry & government affairs. “While still a challenge for many of our members, we appreciate that the final rule did not set any automatic updates and that employers will at least be able to count non-discretionary bonuses, incentives and commissions--up to 10% of an employee's salary--toward the threshold."

The FLSA's exemption threshold for “highly compensated employees" will be set at $107,432, lower than in DOL's initial draft but still higher than the previous threshold of $100,000.

In 2016, the Big “I" was the only insurance trade association to join a lawsuit with the Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business and other business groups to successfully prevent the DOL from moving forward on the previous rule which had doubled the exemption threshold from $23,660 to $47,476 for “white collar" exemptions and raised the exemption threshold from $100,000 to $134,004 for “highly compensated employees." It had also set automatic updates to the thresholds every three years. The Big “I" was concerned the 2016 rule would have diminished employee flexibility, increased administrative burdens and costs on small businesses and negatively impacted insurance consumers through reduced customer service.

“Even with these changes, a number of our member agencies may still find it difficult to comply with these exemptions," says Heather Eilers-Bowser, Big “I" counsel, federal government affairs. “While the new minimum thresholds for 'white collar' exemptions and 'highly compensated executive' employees are much lower than proposed during the last administration, they remain a concern for many independent agents and brokers."

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. ​​

Sep 26
Challenge to the insurance industry: Tell your “giving back" story
lisa.lounsbury.jpgBy Lisa Lounsbury, CAE, AAI, AIS,
Big I NY President & CEO​

The insurance industry is AMAZING. 

It pays claims and provides financial support when there is a loss;

It supports someone starting their dream business or buying their dream house;

It provides “peace of mind" that an individual's or business's assets are protected.

But, what makes the insurance industry AMAZING is its heart.  I am constantly blown away by the meaningful ways that our industry “gives back".

An insurance agent who quietly bought, collected and refurbished hundreds of bikes over many years to provide to inner city youth who could not afford one;

The insurance agency that just underwrote and helped organize a major fundraiser to support a local children's hospital;

The insurance agent who spent two days every week with her “little sister" until she went to community college;

The local association that made beds together for a charity that provides beds to youth who do not have one;

The insurance carrier that underwrote the costs of playground equipment and supported its employees to install and build it for an impoverished community.

I could go on and on with these examples; the industry and people who work in it have heart.

But, we have a major problem.

We don't talk about it as an industry. 

We are modest.

We don't want to seem self-serving.

We don't want to seem boastful—that we are “giving" for the “wrong" reasons.


Stop being modest. 

Stop keeping your story to yourself or your organization.


Start telling your stories. 

Talk about the causes that you and your organization are passionate about and why.

Explain how you support them.

A lot of good will come from it.

First, it is good for the charity.  It gives them FREE PR and marketing. They need you to be an ambassador for their organization and talk about the way you support them.  If you do this, you essentially “multiply" your support of them.

Second, it changes the “perception" of the insurance industry.  Unfortunately, most news about our industry is negative.  Insurance is generally triggered when there is a problem.  Public media loves to beat the industry up.  Instead of reacting to all of the negativity, let's be proactive and control the narrative.  If the industry proactively talks about philanthropic activities, it changes the story and the image.

The last reason to share your story is to attract talent—the right talent. Younger generations place a high value on social responsibility. They are attracted to organizations that “give back".  They eagerly participate in workplace volunteer activities.  In addition to attracting new talent, overall employee morale is raised.

I recently attended an IICF (Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation) board meeting.  The IICF helps communities and enriches lives by uniting the collective strength of the insurance industry in providing grants, volunteer service and leadership.  We awarded ten $2,500 grants to local charities around the Tri-state area.  The work that these groups do is meaningful to the audiences they serve. 

My challenge for you is simple: Start telling your story.  Share your story on your digital channels and include #insurancegivesback and #biginewyork.



Sep 20
On Mary's Mind: CE Nightmares & Our Prescription

By Mary Byrnes​AAI-M, AU​, Education Department​​

If you need CE and it's on your mind or giving you nightmares, we're great at doing some hand holding.

Honestly, we deal with the need for CE every day, so coming up with a plan that fits your needs is what we can help with.  Whether it's 15 CE or just a few, let us come up with a game plan.  We know which courses will fit your licenses, if you have both property/casualty and the life lines, we'll only tell you about classes or webinars that have either “all licenses" or that specifically fit the licenses you carry.  The same with someone who is licensed in property/casualty or LAH.  We can look up your licensing information to see what you need and when you need it by. 

We'll let you know that for webinars, you'll need to do the attendance checks during the webinar and after the webinar, you must complete and email us the attendance affidavit.  These are both requirements of the NYS DFS.  I'm licensed too, so I take a lot of webinars both for my CE and to provide feedback to you when you call.  So, saying, “This instructor is really great and tells a lot of stories" or “this one is really technical and will break the coverage apart to give a better understanding" etc. is not uncommon. 

You might call and let us know that you want to know more about a specific coverage or something like certificates of insurance or contractor's coverage & exposures, we're happy to recommend a class or webinar that fits the bill.  You'll see each week that we include courses and webinars that are upcoming, we try and give you some idea of what the class or webinar will do for you and maybe why you might even like it. 

So whether you like to attend a class, prefer webinars, or want to go the self-study with an exam (shudder, but an exam will always be required for a self-study course for the CE) route, we'll do our best to set up your plan with whichever way you want or in combination.    All you have to do is call or email.  Let us help figure out your CE plan of attack. 

Here's some licensing information that you might not know.  For INDIVIDUAL licenses (not business licenses), if  you're unable to complete your CE in time for your individual license renewal and it lapses, you can't conduct insurance business with that license until you renew it.  However, if you get your CE in order WITHIN 2 Years of your license expiration date, you can process the reactivation online without needing to take the licensing exam again. You'll have to answer an additional question about whether or not you've conducted insurance under the license since it lapsed. If it's been OVER 2 years, all bets are off, you'll need to sit for the licensing exam again.  Now, we're not recommending you play around with this, it's always best to renew on time.

Don't let your business licenses lapse, they can't be reactivated online.  You'd need to do a paper application to get back in business and it's not a fast process.  Until it's reissued, you'd be out of business for that license. 

Thanks to everyone who's called or emailed to say that they read my info each week, it's really a pleasure to hear from you.  

Sep 20
How Big I NY and Our Members Stood Up for IAs and Their Clients: Effective Advocacy in Action

swh headshot blog.jpgThe past legislative session, which adjourned in late June of this year, saw no shortage of challenges for independent agents and our customers. But Big I NY members rose to the challenge and rallied to help defeat legislation that would have dramatically increased liability for businesses, including agencies and brokerages, and raised the cost of insurance.

The Issue: Preventing a Litigation Explosion

The proposed legislation, S.2407-C/A.679-C, would dramatically expand the definition of unfair business practices to include “unfair, deceptive, and abusive" practices. The new definitions of such conduct are extremely broad, relying heavily on subjective standards which are certain to result in a wave of litigation against businesses of all types. For example, take the following provision, which defines just one of the three prohibited practices (subjective language is bolded):

(1) For the purposes of this section, an act or practice is unfair when: (i) it causes or is likely to cause substantial injury, the injury is not reasonably avoidable, and the injury is not outweighed by countervailing benefits; or (ii) it takes unreasonable advantage of the inability of a person to protect his or her interests because of the person's infirmity or illiteracy or inability to understand the language of an agreement.

​Who decides whether a practice is likely to cause an injury? How will it be determined whether a potential injury was substantial? Who judges whether an injury was reasonably avoidable or not?

As if that wasn't enough, the bill would allow private lawsuits, including class actions, by any person, business, or organization; under the current law, enforcement rests solely with the Attorney General. It also creates extremely lucrative incentives for consumers and their attorneys to file such suits. The bill guarantees a minimum of $2,000 in damages per violation, as well as full attorneys' fees and costs.

For independent agents and brokers, who provide trusted advice on a range of insurance products to customers on a daily basis, the consequences of this bill are deeply concerning. Imagine, for example, a customer suffers an uninsured loss. Faced with financial hardship, and encouraged by relentless advertising from personal injury attorneys, they sue their insurance agent and carrier, alleging they are the victim of unfair business practices because they didn't understand the insurance policy they bought. The potential for abusive lawsuits is enormous.

Virtually every business in the state – our clients - similarly face increased legal exposure. How does a business avoid being sued when nearly everything can be construed as an actionable violation of the business law? And what does that do to the cost and availability of commercial insurance, as well as E&O insurance? The picture isn't pretty.

Agents Fight Back: The Power of Grassroots Action

At the first sign this bill was moving, Big I NY leapt into action. Our government relations team in Albany received notice that the bill was scheduled for a vote in the Senate imageConsumer Protection Committee, and immediately began an aggressive phone campaign. Big I NY members began calling the committee chair, urging him not to put the bill up for a vote. Reports from another lobbyist, who was in the Senator's office at the time of the call-in campaign, reported that the phones were “ringing off the hook." Government Relations staff and our lobbyists met with key committee members, followed by the committee chair, where his staff confirmed they were surprised by the number of concerned calls they received from agents. Unfortunately, the news was bad: the bill would still be brought to a vote. The next day, it passed the committee.

​Undeterred, we shifted the campaign to a new target, the Senate Majority Leader. The goal: keep the bill from being brought to a vote by the full Senate. We accelerated the call-in campaign, with members sharing the call to action with their colleagues and employees. In the course of just a few days, agents made hundreds of concerned phone calls. A subsequent meeting with the leader's senior staff revealed that we had cut through the noise of the late-session chaos, and our message was breaking through. They too were caught off guard by the volume of opposition from agents.

With only a few weeks remaining in session, the campaign continued in Albany and across the st​ate, with Big I NY members calling their own Senators while the Government Relations team met with rank-and-file legislators in the Capitol. On June 21st, it was clear our efforts had paid off: the gavel fell and Senate adjourned without bringing the bill to a vote.

IA_AdvocacyDay-12.jpgLessons Learned:

This is far from the complete story; for the sake of brevity, the myriad of meetings, memos, letters, and collaboration with other insurance and business groups are not discussed in detail. Those activities are routine. What makes this story exceptional is the extent to which Big I NY members rose to the challenge and had a decisive impact. So what can we take from this example?

  • Mass engagement makes the difference. Lawmakers get phone calls and emails about bills all the time, and it's difficult to cut through the noise. When they get a few, a staff member makes a note. When they get hundreds, they pay attention. Big I NY members logged over four hundred phone calls during this campaign. The consistent theme we heard from the targets of the call-in campaign was surprise – and awareness of our concerns.
  • Independent agents are in it for their customers. Many, if not most, of our issues ​ are issues that impact our customers. Being politically engaged with Big I NY is an important part of being your customers' trusted advisor and advocate. Many of your customers would be seriously impacted had this bill passed – they should know that their agent is looking out for them in Albany.
  • The benefits are greater than stopping one bill. Sustained grassroots engagement builds our brand and helps all of our issues. It makes lawmakers understand we're paying attention, we're in their districts, and we're willing to fight for what we believe in.

Want to Get Involved?

There are many ways you can support our efforts:

  • Keep an eye on your inbox – during legislative session (January-June) we send out action alerts with easy ways to engage your legislators on key issues (such as the call-in campaign)
  • Get involved in your local association! Our local Big I associations are often the conduit for grassroots legislative work, both in the community and in Albany. 
  • Want to get even more hands on? We're recruiting members for our Grassroots Subcommittee, which focuses on identifying and executing grassroots tactics. Email Scott Hobson for more information.
  • Contribute to IAPAC, our state political action committee.
Sep 20
Big ‘I’ Applauds Efforts to Avoid NFIP Lapse

House passes bill to extend NFIP through Nov. 21st.​​

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 19, 2019— The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I") thanks the U.S. House of Representatives for passing a measure to extend the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) through November 21st as part of government funding legislation.

“The Big 'I' applauds the House of Representatives for voting to extend the NFIP through November 21st, " says Charles Symington, Big “I" senior vice president of external, industry & government affairs. “The Big 'I' especially wants to thank Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-California) and Ranking Member Patrick McHenry (R-North Carolina) for recognizing the critical role the NFIP plays in the lives of millions of Americans. They have led efforts in the House to guarantee flood insurance remains available to those who need it while Congress continues to debate options for reforming the NFIP. Furthermore, we urge the House of Representatives to take up the 5-year flood reauthorization bill that the Financial Services Committee passed unanimously earlier this year."

Congress must periodically reauthorize the NFIP, which is currently set to expire on September 30th. However, Congress has yet to pass a long-term extension of the NFIP, as debate continues regarding options for reforming the program. This has already resulted in a series of stop-gap extensions and a few brief lapses in 2017 and 2018. The current House-passed measure would extend the program on a short-term basis, but the Senate must also act for the program to continue operation after September 30th.

“Following the House vote, the Big 'I' urges prompt action in the Senate to extend the NFIP before September 30th," says Wyatt Stewart, Big “I" senior director, federal government affairs. “A lapse in the NFIP could impact the ability of the program to promptly pay claims if there is a major flooding event, delay recovery efforts related to catastrophic storms and disrupt real estate markets across the country."

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. ​

Sep 19
Pulling forms from the RLI Portal: Q&A

By Denise Brown-Carter, Personal Lines Underwriter

800.962.7950 EXT: 246

I recently took the time to ask Laurie Butts of Tanner Ibbotson some questions about accessing & pulling forms from the RLI portal​.

  1. Laurie, you're a superstar in accessing the RLI portal. Can you tell me what benefits you find in pulling the forms yourself?

    Laurie: It saves time and when the producers and CSR come in becuase it's already in their e-mail or file. 

  2. How do you find doing business with IAAC, Inc.?

    Laurie: It is so easy and you are always there to answer underwriting questions; when I call, you pick up the phone. It's really easy. 

  3. ​What would you tell our members about system access?

    Laurie: I would tell them it is super easy. Sign in, click "forms" then enter the date before, and they are all right there and you know what's going on with the client even before the client receives them. 

  4. How do the Producers and CSRs feel about working with IAAC, Inc for personal lines? 

    Laurie: There is always someone there to pick up the phone or answer an e-mail with any question, easy binding with e-mail or e-signature, no reason to mail documents. This saves on postage and time.
Sep 16
DFS Issues Guidance to Life Insurers and Producers Regarding Group Annuity Contracts

imageThe Department of Financial Services has published guidance​ advising all life insurers and insurance producers that an unauthorized life insurer’s employees or other representatives may not solicit, negotiate, sell, or improperly service group annuity contracts, including terminal funding or close-out contracts, through in-person meetings, telephone calls, mail, emails, access to web portals, or in any other manner from an office or any other location in or into New York. ​

The Department further notes that an insurance producer and any other person, whether licensed by the DFS or otherwise, may not aid or call attention to an unauthorized life insurer in New York. This circular letter is intended to supplement other related guidance, such as Insurance Circular Letter No. 6 (2011).

​An unauthorized insurer may conduct certain limited "back office" functions. However, these functions are extremely limited in scope, and may not involve the soliciation or sale of insurance.

The full circular letter is published here.

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