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Jan 31
On Our Mind: Giving Back

By Jim Lombardo, CPCU, AAI, AIM, MBA, AVP of Learning & Development

According to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24.9% of the U.S. population over the age of 16 volunteered at least once in the past year. In 2011, this percentage was 26.8%, and in 2005 it was 28.8%.

 I have personally experienced this with a local insurance industry group- The Utica CPCU Society. For the past few years we have had the same small group of people volunteering to be officers and to help with events and activities. We have also experienced a decrease in attendance at our regularly scheduled meetings. This is both discouraging and concerning. Will these organizations cease to exist in the near future? Will it lead to burnout of those of us who always volunteer to stop volunteering? I am not sure. But, what I am sure of is the many benefits people derive from volunteering their time-

  • Volunteering helps counteract the effects of stress, anger, and anxiety.
  • Volunteering combats depression.
  • Volunteering makes you happy.
  • Volunteering increases self-confidence.
  • Volunteering provides a sense of purpose.
This lack of volunteers is happening at churches, volunteer fire departments, little league baseball, Cub Scouts, etc. These organizations offer the community so much.
Also, volunteers help the organization grow. Do you as Agency owners allow (encourage) your staff to volunteer? Do you support their activities? Do you perhaps even sponsor some of their activities?

Here at The Big I NY, we are given personal time off to volunteer. We are also big supporters of our “locals"- these sub groups around the state of independent agents who meet, volunteer, support and help grow the space of independent agencies. If you have been a part of these locals, then you know how involved they are. If you have never been a part of a local, I encourage you to seek out your local organization and JOIN!!

Contact us should you want to learn more or find out whom to contact in your area.

Maybe your agency can host a social event and invite members of the local? Perhaps your agency can invite a representative from the local to come in and speak with your staff. Maybe your agency can help coordinate a CE class for the local. What a great way to get involved.
Here are some upcoming webinars – do you have a particular topic or subject area you want to learn more about? Let us know and we will work to create such a class.
Check out the following:​

Crime in the Workplace, It'll Cost You!

Adventures in Aging Understanding Social Security & Medicare

ABEN Risk Mgmt &​ Insurance-Why Agents Are NOT Risk Managers

Jan 31
Important Notice: Full Expansion of New York's Insurance Regulation 187 Goes Into Effect February 1, 2020

Important Notice: Starting tomorrow the full expansion of New York's Insurance Regulation 187 goes into effect.
This requires agents to meet a new "best interest" standard, as defined by the NYS DFS when selling life insurance to state residents. This new standard took effect August 1, 2019 for annuity transactions. If you sell life or annuity products, this regulation affects you.  

What does this mean for you? 
If you write even one life policy it's imperative that you fully understand how it will affect your day-to-day operations and compliance responsibilities. 


WATCH: Tim Dodge & Scott Hobson walk you through compliance in this pre-recorded GearUp webinar

WATCH: Two Minutes With Tim: NY Reg 187 - February 1, 2020 Compliance Date

VISIT: Our Reg 187 Answer Center page shares downloadable questionnaires and checklists to use in your agency as you work towards compliance. ​

What's next? 
As you know, Big I New York continues our ongoing legal challenge to this regulation. In the coming weeks, we'll be filing our appeal to the Supreme Court's July 2019 ruling upholding the amended regulation. We anticipate the appellate court will issue a ruling in late 2020. While we work behind the scenes, you must comply fully with the regulation. When it comes to protecting our members and New York consumers, we won't back down. Questions? Visit the Regulation 187 Answer Center on the Big I NY website.

Jan 31
Two Minutes With Tim: NY Reg 187 - February 1, 2020 Compliance Date

​The new "best interest" standard for life insurance in New York Insurance Regulation 187 takes effect tomorrow. While Big I New York proceeds with its legal action​ against this change, insurance agents must comply. 


Big I NY ​​​Regulation 187 page​

Jan 30
Big I NY to Medicaid Redesign Team: Don't Raise Taxes on Health Insurance

​Today, Big I NY joined a broad group of employer associations, chambers of commerce, and health plans in calling on the Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) not to consider any new taxes or fees on private health insurance plans.

New York State is currently facing a $4B Medicaid deficit. In response, Governor Cuomo has announced a new MRT, similar to the MRT created in 2011 by executive order. The MRT will be tasked with closing the funding shortfall.

Big I NY is concerned that the MRT could look to increasing taxes on health insurance plans as a way to raise revenue. New York already collects more than $5B annually in taxes, fees, and assessments on health insurance. A further increase would unacceptably raise the cost of health insurance for New York's consumers and employers.

We are urging the MRT to focus on reducing costs and improving efficiency, not adding new taxes or fees.

MRT Letter 01-30-2020 Final.pdf

Jan 30
Join the Big ‘I’ for the Next ACT Meeting

Registration for the next Agents Council for Technology Meeting, to take place on April 22 in Orlando, Florida, is now open. The meeting will be held immediately after the HawkSoft User Group (HUG) 2020 National Conference at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando.

Attendance is free for all Big "I" members, as well as supporting ACT carrier, vendor, user group and association members. Registration also details hotel and travel information.

You don't have to be a tech expert to attend—it's your input on workflow improvements that are crucial to the conversation.

Every ACT meeting is focused on providing education via an engaging and interactive agenda. Topics include: becoming a data-driven agency; cyber misconceptions and real insights on prevention; optimizing agency tech use; digital marketing; and more.  

Workgroup sessions will also discuss security issues, application programming interfaces (APIs), customer experience and strategic future issues.

ACT meetings focus on facilitating discussion, education and takeaways at every level across our stakeholders: agents, carriers, vendors, user groups and associations. Working together as one group, we improve our industry and drive forward.

Register now and contact Ron Berg or Ginny Winkworth with any questions. ​

Jan 29
NYAIP Governing Committee Needs Public Member Alternates

​The New York Automobile Insurance Plan​ has asked state insurance producer trade organizations to distribute the following message:

Dear Producers, 

Section 4 of the New York Automobile Insurance Plan (NYAIP) manual provides for the Department of Financial Services to appoint at least 4 public member alternates to the Governing Committee of the NYAIP.  At the request of the Department of Financial Services, the NYAIP is soliciting producer trade organizations for qualified producers (at least five years of work experience) who are interested in serving in the capacity of public member alternates on the NYAIP Governing Committee for the 2020 term.  

Public members on the Governing Committee represent a broad segment of the public obtaining insurance through the NYAIP.  Public member alternates serve in the absence of any public member with the full powers, rights, and entitlements of a public member representative. 

The Governing Committee is responsible for the oversight and direction of the NYAIP pursuant to Article 53 of the Insurance Law.  It currently consists of twenty-two total members, eleven of which are insurers (known as subscriber company members), ten public members, and one limited assignment distribution (LAD) servicing agent.  Pursuant to the NYAIP manual, the Superintendent is responsible for appointing at least four public member alternates to serve in the absence of any public member.  Each public member alternate serves for a term of one year.  At the end of each term, public member alternates may request to be reappointed for the following term. 

To facilitate the process, we have developed an electronic application. All applications will be provided directly to the Department of Financial Services for its consideration, and the Department will contact respondents for any further information if needed. 

Application Link: 

Candidates should know that:

  • The Governing Committee meets 4 times per year (January, May, September and November). The January meeting is a teleconference and the 3 others are in person.
  • In person meetings are conducted near the NYAIP offices in the Wall street area of NYC.
  • Public members and alternates are expected to attend each meeting and receive a per diem for each meeting.  Additionally, travel expenses are paid for by the NYAIP.
  • Meetings generally last no more than 3 hours.

​The NYAIP and the Department of Financial Services appreciate your assistance and participation in the Governing Committee Alternate Public Member candidate process.  

Please contact the NYAIP at if you have any questions. 


The New York Automobile Insurance Plan

Jan 24
Big I NY Board Addresses Concerns with Travelers

​The Big I New York board of directors had a virtual meeting on January 23 with senior leaders at Travelers to address the compensation approach associated with the Quantum Auto 2.0 Value product.  Loree Toedman, VP of Personal Insurance Field Sales, Jeff Burke, Northeast Regional VP of Personal Lines for Travelers and other members of Travelers team were very responsive to meeting with the Big I New York board to address any concerns. The Travelers team provided background and rationale for their approach with the Quantum Auto 2.0 Value product.  The new product will be launched on February 16, 2020 and is intended to provide more competitive pricing to compete against direct writers in the five NYC boroughs, with rates that are 15-20% lower than current rates. The agent compensation for this product will be a flat commission, which is a concern of Big I New York and its members. Travelers explained that this new approach with compensation was needed to achieve the competitive rates that they feel will help independent agents write more auto business in the NYC boroughs where direct writers have over 60% of the auto market.  If independent agents write more personal auto business, they are better positioned to write and retain their homeowners business (which is also being lost to direct writers).  ​

John Cofini, Big I New York Chair of the Board and other members of the board expressed their concern with this flat commission and the potential  impact that approach would have if it was extended beyond this very targeted segment.   Travelers responded that they are not taking this approach on any other product or in any other market.  They agreed to continue this conversation with us and share results over time regarding the impact of their new auto product on the NYC market share.  Big I NY will continue to stay engaged with Travelers and keep members informed.    

We have included a link to a statement from Travelers for Big I NY members regarding the Quantum 2.0 Value product.  We encourage members to contact their Travelers Personal Lines Sales Rep to obtain specific data on how  Quantum Auto 2.0 will impact their individual agency's book of business and compensation. ​

Jan 23
On Our Mind: Customer Service

By Jim Lombardo, CPCU, AAI, AIM, MBA, AVP of Learning & Development

According to Wikipedia, the definition of “customer service" is : the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase. The perception of success of such interactions is dependent on employees "who can adjust themselves to the personality of the guest". Customer service concerns the priority an organization assigns to customer service relative to components such as product innovation and pricing. In this sense, an organization that values good customer service may spend more money in training employees than the average organization or may proactively interview customers for feedback.

Now what I find funny about that is they use the phrase “good customer service" within the definition. I ask you, “What is GOOD customer service?"   I'll tell you what I feel is notgood" customer service, but “expected" customer service.

To list a few items- 

Whether I am ordering a coffee at a local shop or buying groceries, I EXPECT eye contact!! I EXPECT the person to use my name (if they know it) – don't call me “friend".  I EXPECT that they will say “you are welcome" or “It was my pleasure" when I say THANK YOU- don't say “no problem".

I EXPECT them to be able to count correct change and not to mumble and I EXPECT them to be able to know something about me- assuming I am a regular customer. If I am not a regular, then perhaps I should be treated especially “good" so I will entertain becoming a customer.  I don't want to feel like I am bothering the waitress, cashier or clerk. I EXPECT that they understand my value as a customer.

So, my questions to you are:

How is the customer service at your agency? Is it GOOD? Or just what I expect? Or less than what I expect? Do your employees seem genuinely happy/grateful when a customer calls in? After all the customers help you pay your bills.

What priority do you place on that customer service? Do you address an employee right away if they are overheard not offering good customer service? Do you take the time and the resources to have them attend a class and train them to better their customer service skill set?

Most of us get our business from referrals and word of mouth. How fast does it get around that you have poor customer service and/or you take your customers for granted?

Think about it- in today's Amazon society, we need to ensure every and all interactions people have with our agencies are high touch, pleasant, helpful and valuable.

What do we have cooking here at Big I NY? We are knee deep in training and coaching our own employees to offer “good" customer service so that when you, our customers, call in you receive customer service that is high touch, pleasant, helpful and valuable.​

Take a look at some upcoming classes and webinars that will help you hone your customer service skills:


AAI 83 B The Insurance Production Environment

Cyber Coverage - Data Breach and So Much More​

 ABEN Risk Mgmt & Insurance-Why Agents Are NOT Risk Managers

Jan 23
Free Webinar: Digital Payments with ePayPolicy
Wed, Mar 25, 2020 11:00 AM - 11:30 AM EDT

Speed up your receivables, bind business faster, and finally put an end to chasing paper checks with ePayPolicy. 

Created by insurance experts for the insurance industry ePayPolicy provides the simplest solution for Big I New York agents and brokers to collect credit card and ACH payments from their insureds. 

Signing up takes less than five minutes and with ePayPolicy there's no contract or hidden fees to worry about. And for those looking to streamline their receivables even further ePayPolicy integrates with a variety of management systems including AMS360 and Applied CSR24.

Jan 22
Tax Cuts, Higher Fines and Penalties: NY Executive Budget a Mixed Bag for IA’s

​​The FY2021 Executive Budget language was released last night, and Big I NY has identified a number of issues that affect independent agents and brokers. The next step in the budget process is the Assembly and Senate budget proposals, called “one house budgets", which are typically released in late February or early March. Then the Governor and Legislative leaders will negotiate on a final budget which must be voted on and signed by April 1.


The Good:

The Executive Budget proposes a small business tax cut, which will lower the current corporate tax rate from 6.5% to 4% for businesses with less than 100 employees and $390,000 in income, which is approximately 36,000 businesses. The proposal also triples the amount that sole proprietors can exclude from adjusted gross income from 5% to 15% if they file personal income tax and have less than $250,000 in net income. Lastly, the plan repeals the penalty that underpay their estimated tax. Overall this is a welcome proposal, particularly in a year where the state is facing a large deficit and looking to raise revenue. We will advocate for this tax cut to be expanded to benefit a greater proportion of our member agencies, particularly those structured as LLCs.


The Bad:

The Executive Budget seeks to dramatically increase the fines for insurance law violations from $1,000 to $10,000. Independent insurance agents and brokers are often small businesses and a penalty of $10,000 per violation could result in substantial hardship, even putting some out of business. Such a dramatic increase is neither justified nor fair to the thousands of independent agencies and brokerages in New York. We are calling for the legislature to reject this increase.

The Executive Budget also proposes raising penalties for violations of the financial services law (FSL) at the greater of $5,000, or two times the damages, or the economic gain attributed to the violation, and also add to the FSL explicit authority for DFS to collect restitution and damages. Furthermore, the proposal expands the authority of the DFS to prosecute “unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices", and removes the requirement that such acts be “intentional" or “material." This measure increases the scope of conduct that may be prosecuted by the DFS. We are troubled by these provisions as they could expose agencies to significant fines for accidental violations or omissions.


Issues to Watch:

The Executive Budget proposes the creation of a “Digital Marketplace Worker Classification Task Force", which will study the issue of classification of independent contractor gig workers, and recommend legislation by May 1st 2020. We have expressed some concerns with previous versions legislation to reclassify gig workers, similar to California's AB5, as the definitions were sufficiently broad enough to create confusion as to whether producers would have to be classified as employees of the carriers whose policies they sell. Additionally, such proposals could reduce the ability of agencies and brokerages to staff flexibly. The Executive Budget proposal specifically targets “digital marketplace companies," the definition of which does specifically include insurance or financial services companies. This is an issue we will continue to track and weigh in on. 

The proposed budget would legalize adult use of cannabis, and create a new Office of Cannabis Management to develop regulations and oversee the industry. 

The Executive Budget would mandate that employers provide paid sick leave - five days for businesses with five to 99 employees and at least seven days of paid sick leave for businesses with 100 or more employees. 

The Executive Budget also makes changes to the State Insurance Fund (SIF). It proposes authorizing the State Insurance Fund to cancel a policy when the employer fails to cooperate with a payroll audit. Furthermore, it would permit SIF to contract with carriers provided in other states to provide Other States Coverage for its policyholders. ​

Big I NY will remain closely engaged throughout the budget process to support beneficial proposals and oppose measures which will harm our members.

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