|We're bringing you a year-end roundup with some highlights from 2020 - yes, we found some bright spots this year and wanted to share them with you.|
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in grants awarded to 112 NY agencies through the Trusted Choice COVID Relief Fund
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Coming in 2021
|No matter what 2021 brings, we'll always be working and advocating for you. Best wishes for a safe & peaceful New Year from your Big I New York family.|
We believe independent insurance agents serve customers best with trusted advice and the right coverage options to protect what matters most.
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DeWitt, NY 13214
On Friday, 12/18, the New York Department of Financial Services published an industry alert on the recently revealed SolarWinds/supply chain cyber espionage attack.
You should notify the Department if your institution was directly impacted by any of the affected SolarWinds Orion products or if your institution has been notified of an impact by any affiliate who has access to your network or your nonpublic information.
The Department's cybersecurity regulation requires notice of any Cybersecurity Event that has “a reasonable likelihood of materially harming any material part of the normal operation(s)." 23 NYCRR 500.17(a)(2). Given the sophistication and persistence of the malware and the adversary, DFS asks any affected institution to file a notice immediately.
Instructions on how to file notice of a Cybersecurity Event and specific information requested as part of this incident are detailed here: https://www.dfs.ny.gov/industry_guidance/industry_letters/il20201218_supply_chain_compromise_alert
Please contact CyberAlert@dfs.ny.gov for any questions or comments.
2020 has been a tumultuous year, and the IA community faced many challenges. In a time of crisis, our advocacy efforts on your behalf are crucial. Here’s how Big I New York had your back in Albany and Washington D.C. this year:
Defeated A Regulatory Power Grab:
In January 2020, the Governor announced an executive budget which would expand the NYS Department of Financial Services' (DFS) authority to levy fines and penalties against insurance agents and brokers, as well as substantially increases possible fines. Big I NY met with key legislators in the Senate and Assembly, and deployed an aggressive grassroots lobbying campaign, culminating in our Independent Agents Advocacy Day in March. Ultimately, we were successful in blocking all harmful proposals from the final budget.
Stood Up for You and Your Customers During COVID
The effects of the pandemic and the state's ongoing response created an ever-changing and often confusing policy landscape. Big I NY was a constant advocate for common sense policies to help you and you and your customers weather the storm.
As the scale of the impact of the pandemic in NY became evident, we called on the DFS to adopt several measures to protect independent agents' ability to assist their customers, including suspending the auto photo inspection requirement (Regulation 79), and creating a grace period for continuing education (CE) and license renewal. Ultimately the DFS concurred, allowing agents to renew their license without CE in place, and waiving in-person monitoring requirements for CE classes and licensing exams. Recently, the elimination of the in-person monitoring requirement was made permanent.
When the Governor first announced occupancy restrictions, Big I NY successfully called for insurance agencies to be deemed essential.
Following Executive Order 202.16, the DFS issued an emergency regulation imposing a moratorium on cancellations and non-renewals for non-payment, as well as establishing a grace period for premium repayment. Initially, the regulation contained an extremely burdensome requirement that producers notify all of their customers by mail of the new changes. Big I NY successfully urged the department to change course, and allow these notices to be provided electronically and without prior consent. We also called for the policyholder protections to be extended to all excess policies, but this was ultimately unsuccessful.
Beginning in March, Big I NY launched a grassroots advocacy campaign which successfully opposed devastating state and federal retroactive business interruption coverage mandates. This campaign involved dozens of virtual meetings between member agents and state and congressional representatives, as well as meetings with legislative leadership and chairs of the Senate and Assembly insurance committees. This issue remains a key legislative priority for 2021. Big I NY members urged our state's congressional delegation to help small businesses by supporting the federal Business Continuity Protection Plan.
Looking Forward: What's on the Horizon for IA's?
With two highly effective vaccines now approved, there is light at the end of the COVID tunnel; but we are unlikely to return to any sort of normalcy until mid-2021 or later. In the meantime, we are in the midst of a second surge, and New York faces a massive budget deficit.
In the immediate future, we are likely to see a host of new “revenue raisers" put forward by New York elected officials. We are prepared to oppose any efforts to expand fines, fees, and penalties on independent agents, and expect to continue the fight against misguided business interruption bills. We are also optimistic that the coming year will bring new interest in eliminating outdated and burdensome regulations, such as the photo inspection regulation and anti-arson application.
If 2020 taught us one thing, it's that you never know just what the future holds. But there's one thing you can be sure of: no matter what, we'll have your back.
By Jim Lombardo, CPCU, AAI, AIM, MBA, AVP of Learning & Development
I will be the first to admit I am old school. I have worked in a traditional office environment all my adult life. When we were allowed/ordered to work from home, I felt a bit awkward and uncomfortable. As the weeks and, now, months went by I did indeed grow much more comfortable with the setup.
Some things are much easier and much more conducive to productivity, and some things remain uncomfortable for me. That being said, there are many benefits and ways things will be different going forward.
I saw an article I really liked and thought I would share some of the highlights with you.
Justin Bariso wrote, he's seen the future and it is ruled by remote work. Among his points:
Life first. Work second.
"The rise of remote will lead to people re-prioritizing what is important to them". Organizing your work around your life will be the first noticeable switch. People realizing they are more than their job will lead to deeper purpose in other areas."
Focus on outcomes. (I really like this one!!)
Companies will begin judging performance by productivity and outcomes instead of hours worked or "who you drink beer with" outside of the office. By focusing on outcomes, employers help people make time count, instead of simply count time. That type of trust and empowerment actually makes them more productive.
An end to senseless tasks.
"The need to pad out your 8-hour day will evaporate, replaced by clear tasks and responsibilities, Workers will do what needs to be done rather than wasting their time trying to look busy with the rest of the office."
More priority on health and well-being.
"A lack of commute will give workers 25 extra days a year to do other things. Workers will exploit the freedom they have to organize things more freely in their day."
Fast-track of diversity and inclusion.
"The most diverse and inclusive teams in history will emerge rapidly. Companies who embrace it have a first-mover advantage to attract great talent globally."
Written over spoken.
"Documentation is the unspoken superpower of remote teams. The most successful [remote] team members will be great writers."
This is another cultural shift that remote work will only speed up. Email, Slack, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp and other messaging services are already out there, but they're not perfect. New tools will emerge, designed to fit specific company needs.
Now, let's be honest, there will also be negatives that emerge: burnout, people taking advantage, and increased “web surfing," but, all in all, these are some interesting thoughts I wanted to share with you.
Speaking of interesting, here are some upcoming CE classes you may want to explore.
15inONE CE Program: E&O
ABEN Ethical Issues - Personal and Organizational
Big I NY members have exclusive access to a new on-demand training program for startup agencies and new agency owners. The Right Start training series is an agency toolkit to help grow your business and gain carrier appointments. Participants will gain understanding of agency operations, how to increase employee productivity, understand the carrier appointment process and establish and achieve agency goals. The Right Start training is free and available only to Big I members. Click here to get started.
The Marketing Reimbursement Program has some exciting changes coming up for 2021!
The program will still have three ways for members to access funds: Co-branding with the Trusted Choice logo, building a new website with a Preferred Partner and upgrading to an Advantage subscription on trustedchoice.com
A key difference for 2021 is that there is now a new category that ANY member can qualify for even if they have received funds in the past. It is a 50% reimbursement up to $750 for any co-branded digital marketing efforts, with an emphasis on video and online advertising.
Option 1: Cobranding with the Trusted Choice logo
Each member can be reimbursed up to $750 per agency location for including the Trusted Choice logo alongside their own on any consumer facing items/ads. Popular uses include business cards, store signage, sponsorship of local events and ad development/advertising fees. Reimbursement is 50% of cost to agency with a max lifetime value of $750 per agency location.
Change for 2021: None
Digital Marketing Incentive *NEW for 2021*
Members can now access an additional $750 for digital marketing efforts co-branded with the Trusted Choice logo. In order to be eligible, cost must be for digital marketing efforts like paid social/web ads, video development or other digital marketing related costs. Member can utilize the existing customizable marketing campaigns offered by Trusted Choice or can create their own that features the TC logo. All members, including those who have used MRP option 1 funds can access this additional $750. For 2021 only. Reimbursement is at 50% of cost to agency with a max value of $750.
Option 2: New Website from a Preferred Partner
Change for 2021: Website now must feature a Trusted Choice logo.
Option 3: Upgrading to an Advantage subscription on trustedchoice.com
Members can be reimbursed $125 when signing up for an annual Advantage subscription on trustedchoice.com
Change for 2021: Amount has been reduced from $250 to $125. Must purchase an annual subscription to be eligible.
As outlined above, you can now access up to $2,125 in 2021.
The 2020 elections have largely come and gone. While exhausting, one thing is certain: our involvement in the political process is critically important to the future of our industry and our profession. InsurPac, your federal political action committee (PAC) exists for that very purpose. It solicits voluntary contributions and then disburses those funds to U.S. Congressmen, Senators and candidates for federal office who are supportive of our livelihood. This election cycle InsurPac disbursed $1,948,000 and won 93% of the races that it supported.
InsurPac has your back. This past year the Big “I" has weighed in and won on some important issues, including:
- Earlier this year some legislators were taking direct aim at our industry over the issue of business interruption (BI) insurance. They argued that congress should retroactively void exclusions in contracts and force insurers to pay claims for something that was never priced and for which a premium was never collected. According to industry estimates, a haphazard response such as this would have cost between $255-$431 billion in claims per month. This was not just a “company" issue. Our commissions, contingency compensation, and even the fate of our profession were in play. The Big “I" successfully pushed back on these legislative proposals and took wind out of their sails.
- The Big “I" has successfully advocated for legislation, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), to support our agent members and their clients cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to do so as the pandemic progresses.
- The Big “I" was successful in securing a year-long extension of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
- Working with industry partners, the Big “I" has put forward a plan for how Congress could structure a program to deal with future pandemics.
- Earlier this year legislation passed the House that would require nearly every small business with fewer than 20 employees to file new reports on their “beneficial ownership" with the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). The penalties for failure to comply are quite severe with civil penalties of up to $10,000 and criminal penalties of up to three years in prison. The Big “I" successfully secured an exemption for insurance agents in the House passed legislation and is working to get the exemption in the Senate legislation. The Big “I" has been the only producer group to advocate on behalf of agents and brokers.
As a federal political action committee, support for InsurPac must be above and beyond what your association dues are used for. Please consider making a contribution of $100, $250 or more today by clicking here or sending a check (must be personal, LLC or Partnership) made payable to “InsurPac" to 20 F Street, NW #610, Washington, DC 20001.
by Dave MacLachlan, CPCU, Big I NY Chair of the Board
To say 2020 has been a challenging year may very well be the understatement of the century! It would be very easy to focus on the hardship and turmoil in our state, nation, and the world. However, I challenge you to see another side. There’s a great deal for us to be proud of from 2020.
Big I New York members never wavered in their responsibility and dedication to customers, even as the pandemic disrupted our own offices and workflows. As independent insurance agents, we’ve always known our work is important and essential for our communities. Helping neighbors protect what matters most to them is paramount. Regardless of size, location, or ownership structure, Big I NY members flexed and responded to the new work environment. You were there.
As the chair of Big I NY, I am also incredibly proud of how the Big I staff and board responded to members’ needs as COVID reared down on us. They, too, worked remotely; changed workflows; collaborated more; and handled personal impacts while delivering incredible support and resources to agencies across the state. To the Big I NY board, Lisa, and the entire staff, I say thank you.
This holiday season will be different in many ways. But different doesn’t have to mean worse. Enjoy the slower pace and appreciate the many little things normal circumstances preclude us from seeing…even when they are right in front of us.
Happy Holidays and Cheers to 2021.
We’ll always have your back.
Crafted by Julie Furst
We NEED the magic of the holiday season, especially this year. The warmth, the joy, the shows of appreciation, the snacks - these annual traditions are fuel for the soul. But this year is a little, well, weird to figure out. Either you don't see your team much in person, or cash is extra tight, or you just plain don't know what they want. Don't fret - I'm here to help.
We asked agency staffers from around the state what they'd like to get from their leaders and have compiled the popular answers.
Note, and it's a big one: Don't forget (or be scared by) the rule of thirds. 1/3 will love what you do, a 1/3 will be vanilla about it, and 1/3 will hate it. We'll consider vanilla a win, so shoot for the two thirds. And...the best way to know what your team wants is to ask them.
Let's face it, $$ is king. But here are ideas for every budget (including none):
Gift cards topped our list. Even small amounts. Though $100 was mentioned a few times.
- Ideas shared: Amazon, grocery store, online shopping. Visa gift cards have a small extra fee for you but can be used anywhere.
Gift from a Local Shop - Win-Win
Several brilliant agency staffers mentioned how great it would be if their leaders purchased something from a local business, especially if it's a customer. Fantastic idea to support your community!
- Ideas shared: local restaurant gift card or basket, chocolates, hot chocolate bombs, coffee, a charitable donation in honor of them (can't do in their name because of tax complexity).
Wouldn't it be a dream not to have to multi-task or do work at all. Team members think so! And, it's no money out of your pocket.
- Ideas shared: A day off, allow them to leave early, and a really cool thing we do now at Big I NY - institute a new Birthday off policy for 2021. Every staffer gets to take their birthday, or day near it, off in 2021. Winner, winner, morale-boosting dinner!
Love *** No matter what you do, do this too! It doesn't cost anything and can go a long way. ***
SO. MANY. People. said they would really appreciate some TLC from their leaders. Several praised their bosses for already doing this.
- Ideas shared: Handwritten thank you note for everything they've done in these hard times, a holiday card signed by the big cheese, a quick zoom or desk visit to say thank you personally. Lunch ordered in, and they pick what.
Real Consideration for Policy Change
Sometimes the greatest gifts are the ones that last a long time. 2020 has taught us that we can approach things differently and still survive and thrive. Truly listen to what your staff would like changed. Ask around if you haven't heard anything. Show you are thoughtfully considering their requests and consider a compromise if you can't go all the way.
- Ideas shared: Long-term work from home, improvements in the office - standing desks, safety enhancements (indoor and outdoor - like parking lot lights), flex schedules.
You know your team loves you when they include agency-branded swag on the list. And that's what we saw.
- Ideas shared: Sweatshirts (multiple people said this), blankets, anything cool.
Think outside the box.
- Ideas shared: Leader drive-by blaring Christmas music, maybe leave a Christmas ham on their porch (do NOT do this for Hanukkah)! Old school becomes new school - a few people mentioned the good old Christmas Ham as a gift. Send pizza to a team member's family for dinner.
Let's switch gears for a moment.
Virtual Holiday Festivities - to do or not to do?
We asked if they wanted a virtual event, they answered.
- 1/3 of the people of responded they would rather do almost anything else.
- 2/3 will be game.
- So, maybe set it up and welcome everyone but don't publicly shame Jan from Sales if she 'can't attend.'
Also, make note to host something in-person when it's safe again later next year.
I was absolutely shocked at the grace of the respondents. They truly appreciate how hard it's been for their leaders too. And many complimented them. They also didn't have a harsh tone or ask for the moon in a gift, offering up ideas that were free, cheap, or easy. Most just wanted to feel noticed and appreciated. You can do that!
Answers to "What I wish my boss knew...," several have been combined:
- I'm trying my best; We're just as tired as they are; We need more pats on the back; Extra love needed all year, don't forget admin day.
- Some team members feel a little more 'on the outside' than normal. Virtual or in-person, you may need to check-in and include everyone a little more.
- Employees are suffering from the long duration of this pandemic. Even though we are so grateful to be working and have jobs, we cannot help but be stressed in some form - through isolation, sickness, loss of a loved one, etc.
- He is pretty in tune with what is going on and really communicates well with the staff. Safety is his focus. However, he wants to make sure the staff meets our customer's needs but also does checkups on the staff.
- He's doing a great job.
Approach your giving with warmth and see your team as individuals who are trying really hard for you while dealing with a lot in and outside of the office. And have a little fun!
What you give now is an investment in team building for 2021!
The Culture Corner highlights tips, tricks, tools, and insights for making your business a great place to work.