Content provided by ePayPolicy
Alpha Direct Agency doesn’t just embrace InsurTech. Technology is one of their core values:
Driven to Win with Technology
Today’s customer expects things to be done at Ferrari speed. Technology evens the playing field. Our customers don’t expect less from us. We will continue to innovate with Technology for years to come.
The 17-year-old agency even offers (among other specialty lines) technology services insurance and drone liability. Licensed in 17 states, Alpha Direct Agency has offices in New York City, Raleigh and Miami, plus international presence in the Dominican Republic and soon in Ecuador. Clearly, technology is critical to the agency’s revenue, as well as connecting its producers to each other and to the flagship office in upper Manhattan.
Asked about his agency’s use of InsurTech solutions, Principal Emmanuel Osuyah chuckles. “We are the earliest of adopters! People look to me before they buy new software. They know if I’ve used it and recommend it, it’s going to work.”
It’s not surprising, then, that Alpha Direct Agency started offering digital payment processing way back in 2006. Notwithstanding his agency’s international footprint, Emmanuel describes his agency as locally focused. “Customers would literally take the elevator up with baby carriage in tow to find our suite.” Most paid in cash or by money order. But carrying large amounts of cash around is a hassle. And, says Emmanuel, “the cashless world has forced change on all of us.” About the decision to offer online payment, he notes: “There was a time when if you could process ACH (check) payments, you were king. We had to go there.” As for credit cards, Alpha Direct Agency is “all plastic all day long.”
He tried out a series of payment processors over the years before becoming an early adopter of ePayPolicy (which he fondly refers to as “ePay3”). As one of ePayPolicy’s first clients, Emmanuel is clear about why he made the move: batching and fees.
None of his previous vendors had the capability to separate transaction fees as ePayPolicy does. He had to reconcile their fees monthly, decidedly “batch unfriendly.”
Prior to Insurance, Emmanuel worked as a banker, where he had to triple count cash for verification (those were the days before the desktop teller machines). When he founded his agency, he was no stranger to triple counting cash late into the night; and that’s when he knew there had to be a better way. With other merchant services vendors, he would take a month-and-a-half to reconcile credit card payments. Some vendors have two separate portals for credit cards and ACH transactions; which necessitates two different logins. In contrast, with ePayPolicy, mid-month and at the end of the month, his bookkeeper would run the reports, and “the transactions are right there. Both credit cards and ACH in the same transaction summary. With another click you hop into the batches. It’s so smooth, with easily searchable fields, which gives us more time in the month to focus on other things.”
Agent reaction to ePayPolicy
His agents like the payment portal also. He says, “I lean on my 15 employees for feedback. My people were complaining about the old platform.” The Agents particularly like that refunds to customers are easy with ePayPolicy. Confirmation of the refund can be sent to the customer from the platform within minutes of processing, saving them from having to take follow-up calls about the refund’s status.
The ePayPolicy experience
The transition from the previous payment processor vendor was smooth. ePayPolicy integrated easily with Alpha Direct Agency’s website. Emmanuel shares that,“right off the bat, I was impressed with the seamlessness of it all. My logo was in the portal, access to reports was painless and payments were hitting my bank account in the expected time frames.”
Emmanuel also gives thumbs up for:
Ease of payment (a big plus in redirecting customers away from cash payments)
Speed of payment (frees up agents to spend more time on sales)
Web 2.0 friendly (it offers a clean look without a lot of “gibberish” on the screen)
Alpha Direct Agency hasn’t had to lean on ePayPolicy’s Customer Service often, but they’ve been very responsive when called or emailed. He cites this example: “Our customers know immediately when a transaction fee shows up in their account. Disputes are rare. But one customer contested a fee, even though he knew he was in the wrong. ePayPolicy shut it right down once we provided supporting documents.”
The “fees” theme continued throughout the interview. Emmanuel finds ePayPolicy’s flat fees for ACH transactions ($3 per) a major benefit. He recently had another vendor pitch him, but they charge a percentage of the ACH transaction. Needless to say, that company will not be getting the Emmanuel Osuyah stamp of approval.
Next steps for Alpha Direct
Alpha Direct does not currently use the invoicing function, but Emmanuel looks forward to implementing it. In addition, he’s excited to know that ePayPolicy’s platform has plans to integrate with his agency management system (Hawksoft).
Advice to other agencies
To any agencies out there researching digital payment processors or dissatisfied with their current vendor, Emmanuel Osuyah does not mince words:
“Sign up with ePayPolicy. Go straight to where the future’s at.”
By Sue Keegan , AIC, MBA, Learning & Development Manager
Big news from your friends at Big I NY!! We are excited to announce that we will be offering P&C PRE-LICENSING. This is something we have been working on for some time and are delighted it has all come together before year’s end. Mark your calendars for the first week of December because that’s when our three week P&C PRE-LICENSING classes will launch. Our first class will be Tuesday, December 1. More to come on our website but I wanted to get the word out now.
I’m also happy to announce a Cyber course coming up in November along with a Wrongful Acts Coverage class in November as well. Education doesn’t take a break just because we’re closing in on the end of the year!
Check out these learning opportunities:
Question from a Big I NY member: I have a commercial lines client who has a $5,000,000 umbrella policy with us. The insured does not want us to show on certificates that he has a $5,000,000. He would like us to show on the requested certificates a $2,000,000 umbrella policy. The insured just bumped up his umbrella for one client. The umbrella policy has always been $2,000,000 and he will be changing the coverage back to $2,000,000 at renewal. Is this something that I can do?
Watch the video below where my confidant and I consider this question. Also note the change in title because truth in advertising.
Links mentioned in the video:
ACORD 25 Forms Instruction Guide
New York Insurance Law Sect. 502
New York Insurance Law Sect. 2110
Certificates of Insurance
New Jersey Law:
Certificates of Insurance
Big I New York Answer Center:
Certificates of Insurance
By Jim Lombardo, CPCU, AAI, AIM, MBA, AVP of Learning & Development
I have been having a ball the last year or so working for Big I NY. After being “on the agent side” for many years, it is a pleasure and a breath of fresh air to be able to support my fellow Brothers and Sisters. We want to give you all the resources and services you need to make your job easier, more worthwhile and more fulfilling so you can continue to HELP PEOPLE!
This is why I am very excited to share with you a new program... Sales Coaching and Training- this can be for you, your rising stars, or future hires.
Selling insurance is the ultimate people's business. The best agencies know how to make deep connections with people. In the past, we motivated our sales teams with carrots and sticks. The new generations of sales agents want more. In the book Good Authority by Jonathan Raymond, he states what people want from work today. "It is the offer of work that will-from the day they start to the day they decide to move on-help them become a better version of themselves."
We are excited to offer a new and different sales performance training from Habit Finder coaches Cliff D'Angelo and April Ballestero. Their programs aren't just about learning sales techniques. These very experienced coaches will identify your habits of thinking. They will show you how these thought habits support you in achieving your goals or cause roadblocks in your performance.
Together Cliff and April have over 50 years of sales experience and proven coaching results. The core of this program is your agents will now have coaches who are focused on them personally and professionally to increase production, create a whole perspective to their life and business, and improve overall results in doing business with people they want to do business with.
Here are some upcoming webinars you might find interesting as well.
By Andrew Frisbie, Chief Information Security Office at LCG
What is a BEC attack?
In the last several weeks, we have seen an increase in a type of cyber-attack called Business Email Compromise (BEC) – targeting businesses using Office (Microsoft) 365 email services. In this type of attack the objective is usually to influence your email communications for the purpose of convincing someone to divert payments (funds) to an illicit bank account or repository.
Learning to protect your organization from BEC attacks is a cyber risk mitigation strategy against financial loss. Some examples from the past few weeks include:
- Company using custom email domain in Office 365 was spoofed to convince a customer to redirect invoice payments, resulting in nearly $200,000 in diverted funds.
- Company using custom email domain in Office 365 experienced email account takeover, which was used to send credential stealing malware to customers.
- Company using custom email domain in Office 365 has been subjected to brute force / password guessing attacks from around the globe and is concerned about email account takeovers.
Like most business owners, cyber criminals evaluate their Return on Investment. BEC is highly profitable and requires very little investment by the attackers. Cyber criminals do not need to procure teams of software developers to create and deploy malware into a company’s network, maintain persistence in the network or surveil the network – all the while risking detection before achieving their monetary objective. Rather, they can simply use social engineering to trick your employees to do the hard work for them. Also, as many businesses are migrating to cloud-based email like Office 365, there are plenty of targets to choose from.
Company executives are often targeted in BEC attacks because they are in a position of authority and have influence over financial transactions. Similarly, people in finance/accounting roles are often targeted. Cyber criminals can easily find this information by searching sites like LinkedIn.
How the attackers pursue their objectives
As noted, the objective is to divert funds into an illicit bank account. To do so, they must convince the email recipient that the email sender is a trusted source. There are two basic techniques attackers use to assume the “trusted sender” role in BEC attacks:
- Spoofing – the act of impersonating a trusted sender by obscuring the email source (sender name, address, website, etc.) - often by changing just one character. The goals is to get you to click on something or reveal information beneficial to the attackers by making you believe you are communicating with a trusted source.
- Email account takeover – harder to recognize than a spoofed email because the legitimate email account has been compromised and is being controlled by the attacker. In Office 365 environments without proper safeguards, the attackers leverage rules and policies to hide the fact that they have compromised the account.
A note about Email account takeovers: The attacker may try to compromise the account by getting you to do something (click/open) or they may try to brute force / guess their way in. Regarding the latter, we often find that company email addresses from various mega breaches are purchased on the Dark Web and used to harvest information such as usernames, email domains and in some cases passwords. Attackers rely on human fallibility in password management – that most people use the same passwords over and over again across numerous services and websites. Attackers can leverage the breach data to run automated attacks against your Office 365 system until a successful compromise occurs and the attack is handed off to a human being. Remember that a compromised Office 365 account is not limited to email – Office 365 exposes other apps like Teams, SharePoint and OneDrive.
8 steps you can take to protect your organization against BEC attacks
- Train your employees to recognize fraudulent emails and provide them a mechanism to report such emails to your IT or information security contact.
- Create an incident response plan that includes what to do and who to call when an employee makes a mistake and falls for a phishing/spear phishing type attack.
- Secure your Office 365 environment by enabling Multi-factor authentication – the single most important safeguard for protecting against account takeovers.
- Know what sensitive information is stored in Office 365 apps like Teams, SharePoint and OneDrive (premium licenses from Microsoft have features that enable more granular protections of content).
- Create dedicated administrator accounts in Office 365 that are closely monitored and used strictly for administrative tasks. Never use an administrator account for normal, regular use such as connecting to an inbox and sending email.
- Enable Audit Logs in Office 365 so you can monitor activity and so there is data to investigate in the event of a suspected breach.
- Leverage the relatively new Security and Compliance admin centers in Office 365 to implement Microsoft’s recommended rules and policies to protect against malware, ransomware and phishing attacks.
- Implement financial controls for employees that include “out-of-band" verification of changes to payment methods. An example of “out-of-band” verification means that if you receive an email notice that bank routing information has changed for payment of invoices, you should not attempt to verify via the same mechanism that requested the change, rather you should verify by phone or in person instead.
Question from a Big I NY member: Hi Tim. Work Comp question for you. How come some policies have different limits shown than others? Work comp is unlimited isn’t it? I never really had a good answer on this issue.
Answer: By “limits,” I assume you mean the Employers Liability Limits shown in Item 3.B. in the Declarations. It is true that, for most employments, Employers Liability Insurance is unlimited in New York. The NY WC manual states that endorsement WC 31 03 08, New York Limit of Liability Endorsement, must be attached to all policies that list New York under Item 3.A. in the Declarations. It applies only to Part Two, Employers Liability Insurance, and states:
"We may not limit our liability to pay damages for which we become legally liable to pay because of bodily injury to your employees if the bodily injury arises out of and in the course of employment that is subject to and is compensable under the Workers' Compensation Law of New York."
Therefore, if an injured employee is eligible for New York Workers’ Comp benefits, Employers Liability Insurance coverage is unlimited. For example, suppose a construction worker is injured using a power tool and collects WC benefits. The worker is prohibited by law from suing his employer, but the manufacturer of the tool is fair game. He sues the manufacturer for allegedly selling an unreasonably dangerous tool. The manufacturer countersues the worker’s employer for allegedly failing to train him on how to use it properly. The Employers Liability Insurance coverage for this lawsuit against the employer is unlimited because of this endorsement.
Another example: A landlord owns a few one-family houses and hires someone to clear away dead grass and leaves from one of the yards during the spring. While doing the job, this person somehow gets hurt (gets a cut or something.) A casual laborer doing chores around a dwelling is not eligible for NY WC benefits. If he sues the employer, the limits shown in Item 3.B. in the Declarations would apply to that lawsuit because the injury arose out of and in the course of employment that is not is subject to and compensable under NY WC law. In this scenario, the limits shown in the Declarations become pretty important; that’s one reason why you might see higher limits.
Another scenario would be if an employer has operations in multiple states, and an employee from another state gets hurt while temporarily in New York (think a claim adjuster from Virginia sent to New York to handle claims after a hurricane.) Most states extend eligibility for WC benefits to employees temporarily working in another state. In that case, again the injury is not compensable under NY WC law, so the limits to Employers Liability Coverage would apply. In addition, if a single policy lists New York and other states under Item 3.A., the EL limits will apply to an injury in one of those other states.
Lastly, it seems to be pretty common for some project owners to require high EL limits in the insurance requirements, probably because they’re ignorant of the way EL coverage works in New York.
These are the reasons I can think of why the EL limits might vary from one policy to another. If an employer has operations and employees only in New York and all of the employments are covered by the NY WC law, I agree that the EL limits are meaningless.