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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.

Jan 22
There's Something Fishy About This Loss

​Sure, Farmers Insurance says they've seen a thing or two​, but have they seen this item​ from the Insurance Information Institute's The Triple I Blog? I don't think so.

Sometimes the blog posts just write themselves.

ABC News in North Carolina reports that a driver in the state looked up and saw a bird carrying a huge fish.

“It was one of those slow-motion moments in life. I saw the fish and I saw him drop it,” said Rhesa Walston of Beaufort, North Carolina.

The catfish smashed straight into her windshield.

It happened so quickly she didn’t have time to react.

“There was glass all over my front seat…glass on my lap,” Walston told ABC News.

After making sure her daughter in the back seat was safe, Walston contacted her family and her insurance company. Family members tracked down the fish (apparently, catfish dropped from high altitudes bounce) and took pictures to corroborate her catch.


Walston told ABC News she will have to pay the $250 deductible on her comprehensive auto policy — not a huge price for a story the family will be telling for years to come.  Animal damage is covered if you have optional comprehensive coverage. If you only have collision coverage, then you’re not covered.

The eagle could not be reached for comment.​

Never EVER let someone tell you insurance is boring.

Jan 17
Being Our Best Every Day

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

Arnold Palmer, the legendary golfer, once said, “Timing is everything in life and in golf!"​

Well, while we certainly have had some mild winter temperatures here in the north east, it is still not time for golf. However, I have always felt that timing does indeed play a role in many situations. That being said, I also firmly believe we make our own opportunities. We all are in a tremendous industry- what we have chosen to do for a career- help people manage the risks in their lives and help them protect what is important- is something to be proud of every day!!

It is incumbent upon us to always “be at our best". We are competing against million dollar TV ads, numerous misrepresentations and a historically bad image- we need to break through that and continue to show our value each and every day!

How can we do that? Well there are many ways but, again, timing is everything!! Take classes (see links below) to become more knowledgeable; volunteer in the community; participate at school functions (ask me about Project InVEST); modestly but proudly promote how your agency helps people daily; perhaps teach a class at the local community college or sponsor a cultural event. Get your name out- you never know when someone in need will spot you and pursue a business relationship.

Here are some upcoming classes:

Insuring Condominium and Homeowner's Associations​

Ethics and EO: Synergy Not Rivalry​

Alphabet Soup: The Mistakes & Coverages- DO, EPLI, FLI & EBL​

ALSO – if you even sell a small amount of life insurance don't miss our free webinar on the upcoming Reg 187- Best Interest Standard.

Reg 187 - It's In YOUR Best Interest​

Jan 17
Two Minutes With Tim - NY SHIELD Act - What Do Insurance Agencies Have To Do?

​New York enacted a cybersecurity law last year. What does that mean for insurance agents and brokers? If they're complying with the New York regulation on Cybersecurity Requirements for Financial Services Companies, not much. Just be prepared to notify the state attorney general if something goes seriously wrong. Watch:


Big I NY report, June 21, 2019

New York General Business Law Section 899-bb

Jan 17
Two Minutes With Tim: Best Interest Standard (NYS Reg 187) - Do You Have To Take a Course?

​Starting on February 1, 2020, New York licensed life insurance producers must meet a "best interest" standard when making recommendations to clients. The good news: They aren't required to take a course for it. However, we believe they should anyway. Watch:


NYS Department of Financial Services post

Free Big I NY webinar registration

Jan 17
DFS To Auto Insurers: Don't Discriminate Based on Immigration Status

​The New York State Department of Financial Services has told automobile insurers and insurance producers that it will not tolerate rate discrimination against newly-licensed undocumented immigrants. In a circular letter dated January 16, 2020, the department advised that these drivers "should not be subjected to any unfairly discriminatory practices when they seek motor vehicle insurance."

The letter follows the enactment last year of New York's "Green Light Law." The law, passed by the State Legislature and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last spring, allows all New Yorkers of legal driving age to apply for a standard, not for federal purpose, non-commercial driver license or learner permit, regardless of their citizenship or lawful status in the United States. It took effect last month.

The letter, signed by Deputy Superintendent - Property & Casualty Insurance Stephen Doody, said that an insurer should:

  • Recognize that these drivers may have driving histories from their original homelands that an insurers might consider for underwriting purposes
  • Not deny, based on immigration status, a driver's opportunity to participate in useage-based or telematics programs
  • Eliminate bias, disparate impact or factor useage based on immigration status from its underwriting and rating data sources, formulas and models
  • Remember existing state laws against discrimination based on lack of credit history and unfair rate discrimination

The department warned of potential disciplinary action against insurers or producers who undercut the Green Light Law's purpose by reneging on their legal obligations.

Jan 16
Out of Office

Getting into the LMS and using the templates is definitely an adjustment. It's nice because there are helpful ways of seeing what each template can do and how they function. Being able to see them before I use them helps so I know how to prep the information before I put it into the platform. Planning the layout and materials needed in a word doc is helpful so that I have a map and way to go about things.

This is also my last day in the office ☹ I had a delightful lunch with two of the women from the marketing team. They make working in an office and a cubicle for that matter look like a good time. I am very grateful for being able to have this opportunity at Big I and I'm excited to continue my role from campus. I will miss the lively atmosphere the office has and all of the pleasantries of sharing cubicle walls with some rockin women. I will be blogging less frequently from my Ithaca campus so you'll hear from me again soon! Until then, Thank You Big I!! #Goodbyecubicle #Jenniferiscool #thankyou​

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