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Jul 07
Positive Industry Messaging

The Trusted Choice & Big I Communications teams have been producing some positive messaging around the industry response to the pandemic - including the return of auto premiums, donations to community efforts and foundations, thousands of hours of independent agents’ support for their local communities and the innovation of agents and carriers to be able to continue a vital industry through remote work and support. 

The ad below will be running full page in the USA Today America Responds edition which will hit news stands on July 20.  Please feel free to use and share the ad below! And be sure to check back later for additional materials you can share.


Download the Ad Here​

Jul 07
Moratorium, Premium Payment Flexibility Emergency Regulation Expires in NY

As of 12:01am on Tuesday, July 7th, emergency restrictions on insurance carriers' and premium finance agencies' ability to terminate coverage and requirements for premium flexibility are no longer in effect in New York State. The emergency regulation, first adopted on March 30th, and subsequently re-adopted with changes on June 29th, expired on July 6th, per Executive Order 202.48.

Relief granted to policyholders prior to July 6th remains in effect. For example, an insured who demonstrated hardship for a June 1 premium payment is still entitled to a 60-day deferral (until July 31), and the option to repay that premium in 12 monthly installments. ​


Jun 16
Top 3 Tools You Need to Manage Remote Workers

By Sharon Emek, CEO of WAHVE

Today's employees Zoom, Skype, Jabber, FaceTime, GoToMeetings and chat in Google Hangouts and Webexes. When they're not videoconferencing, they're emailing, collaborating in Microsoft Teams, and instant chatting on Slack. They've already got the tech tools they need to make it easy and more convenient to work remotely, but do you have the right management tools in place to keep your remote employees engaged? 

There's no doubt that hiring remote employees can benefit your insurance business by bringing in critical skills that you don't have or can't easily find. Remote workers can be a boon to recruiting, productivity, business continuity, and improved customer service. But relying on a traditional management style to keep a dispersed workforce motivated and moving forward won't cut it. 

So, what are the best ways to keep employees you rarely see motivated? 

Build a Virtual Water Cooler
The cornerstone to keeping remote employees engaged is proactive communication. When you can't simply stop by an employee's desk to chat, grab a cup of coffee, or physically sit with them in a conference room, it's important to make a concentrated effort to make time for casual conversation. It's not enough to schedule a few one-hour meetings per week. Communication with remote employees should be fluid, spontaneous and regular. Create a virtual water cooler by continually chatting with people to find out what they did during the weekend, how their family is doing, and what their plans are for time away from work.

 

Establish Some “WAHVY Gravy"
When employees are out of sight, it can be easy to unintentionally exclude them, making them feel isolated. And when people feel isolated and not a part of the work community, productivity suffers. 

Go beyond relying on virtual meetings to establish community. If you have an intranet, create a space where people can share news, tips, or pictures of their pets. Many companies dedicate specific Slack channels to support socializing.  Others use virtual coffee breaks, book clubs, TED talks, or online learning courses that everyone participates in to encourage a deeper sense of community.

Another strategy is to incorporate a few minutes for team members to share something personal at the end of meetings. At WAHVE, we call this “WAHVY gravy." We ask people to share something that's important to them – whether it be pictures of their artwork, hobbies, or stories about recent vacations. Another idea is to ask employees to share an “ah ha" or an “appreciation" – something they recently learned or someone they'd like to acknowledge. The important thing is to make it fun and personal. This changes how people interact with each other at a human level and builds interest and empathy for one another. 

Don't Forget Face Time
Despite all of the fancy tech tools, there's still no substitute for face​ time. When you're managing a remote team, no matter the size, it's important to bring the entire team together when you can. Doing this shows on site and remote workers how much you appreciate them, and it builds connection. At WAHVE, we bring our staff together bi-annually, and we find that these events are invaluable to help the team bond, strengthen our culture, and share goals and future direction with everyone physically present.

According to an analysis by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics, remote work has grown 44% over the last five years and 91% over the past 10 years. It's a trend that will likely continue to rise, so there's no time like the present to adapt your management style to support remote workers, and in turn, the success of your business.

 Leave a comment below to share your ideas for keeping remote employees engaged.​




May 26
Will You Be Welcoming a New Employee?

​While new hire season 2020 may look very different than 2019, new employees are still joining agencies every day.  We have connected with many hiring managers and new hires to learn what's different about the onboarding process.  A lot is different especially when agencies' employees are working from home or a smaller staff rotates in-office times. 

Below are tips if you are hiring over the next 60 days:

1.  Number One Priority: Have A Plan!

This was always a proven strategy but now more than ever.  Map out the first three weeks day by day.  The first impression sets the stage for future expectations.  A schedule with a mission, timing and outcomes for each day will communicate how employees and teams are expected to perfect at your agency. 

  • Arrange HR related requirements on their first day.
  • Schedule guest one-on-one speakers from the agency to talk about their role and the culture.
  • Set online learning assignments for completing a certain number of courses each day.
  • Organize all operations and procedural training that takes place remotely via zoom or webinar to be recorded. These can be terrific reference tools for the new hire.  Finding the information they need when they need it, will build confidence.
  • Integrate report backs or quizzes.  Accountability starts with the new hire sharing what they learned to encourage them to ask questions and learn more. 

​2.  “Before" Day One- Impression Matters!

Make your new hire feel welcome; create a plan. Nothing is worse then a new employee showing up for work and feeling lost. Here are some ways to make a great impression that first day: 

  • Make them feel they are part of the team – introductions are a must – and virtual conference calls are perfect for this. 
  • Send the new employee a welcome basket or a swag bag with your company marketing materials. 
  • Schedule virtual lunches – not every day but sprinkle them in throughout. 
  • Can you assign a different buddy for the first three weeks? (That's only one per week.)
  • Rotate buddy assignments for the first three weeks. 
  • Include them in staff meetings (and then ask them post-meeting to share questions with you). 
  • Engage with the New Employee Daily.

As a leader, be sure to check-in daily – this can be a longer meeting on Monday morning to reset the plan for the week and then at lunch or end of day to discuss questions. Employees value leadership and guidance.  The first 90 days on a new job can be tense for the new employee – now more than ever.  Every connection and discussion will ease this tension and create a supportive onboarding process. 

Need help with a training plan?  Please visit:
https://www.myagencycampus.com/ for more information. 


Apr 21
Temporary Insurance Producer License for New Resident Applicants

Governor Ned Lamont declared a State of Emergency due to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) on March, 20, 2020. The COVID-19 emergency has caused the suspension of insurance producer licensing exams. The suspension of producer licensing exams has resulted in some prospective new applicants being unable to obtain an insurance license and secure employment

Effective immediately, the Department will issue Temporary Insurance Producer Licenses in accordance with C.G.S. 38a-702 to applicants meeting the requirements for licensure without requiring examination. The stipulations regarding this temporary license are set forth below.

The purpose of this notice is to bring to the attention of the insurance industry, including applicants, agents, and insurers, that the Commissioner has determined that it is in the public interest to issue temporary resident producer licenses during the period covered by the Executive Orders concerning the corona virus (COVID-19) emergency issued by Governor Lamont. This notice establishes the process to apply for, and the criteria for issuance of, a temporary resident producer license.

Qualifications of Applicants for a Temporary Insurance Producer License

  1. Must be a Connecticut resident. The temporary producer license will allow the producer to operate in Connecticut as a resident temporary producer. The temporary license is not intended to qualify the producer for non-resident licenses in other states and, as such, Connecticut will not grant non-resident temporary producer licenses.
  2. Must be appointed by an insurer who assumes responsibilities for all acts of the temporary licensee. This temporary appointment will coincide with the duration of the temporary license.
  3. Insurers must notify the Connecticut Insurance Department in writing if the sponsored temporary license holder is no longer employed or under the direct supervision of the insurer sponsor, and shall disclose all details as to circumstances causing termination.
  4. The individual requesting the temporary license meets all other requirements for licensure. The Commissioner will not issue a temporary license if the individual has been revoked or denied a resident license by the State of Connecticut.
  5. Temporary Insurance Producer Licenses are subject to cancellation or revocation if the temporary licensee violates the insurance laws of this state or if the interests of insureds or the public are endangered.

Duties of Insurer or Responsible Licensed Producer

The insurer must maintain a record of all producers operating under a temporary license and business transacted by them. Insurers should assist producers with moving through the examination and background check process more quickly once the current State of Emergency has been lifted. The Insurance Commissioner may require the temporary insurance producer to have a responsible licensed producer or insurer who assumes responsibility for all acts of the temporary licensee and may impose other similar requirements designed to protect the insureds and public.

Limitation of Temporary Insurance Producer License

  • The license will automatically expire 180 days from the date of issue: no exceptions.
  • The license is not renewable.
  • The license is convertible to an equivalent traditional insurance producer license without an additional fee if the examination has been met before its expiration date. There will be no extensions to, or exceptions made to this requirement.
  • Recipients of a Temporary Insurance Producer License will be subject to any and all limitations on the authority of such temporary licenses pursuant to Connecticut law.

How to Apply for a Temporary Insurance Producer License

  1. Applicants may apply for a temporary producer license if they have completed the pre-licensing course within the last 12 months.
  2. Apply through the Department’s website at: https://cidonline.ct.gov/lit/application/individualApplication.jsp
    Select “Producer New Application.” The fee is $140.00.
    You may not apply through NIPR or submit a paper application.
  3. The application will not be approved unless all required documents are received by the Department.
  4. Submission of appointments through NIPR for Temporary Producer licenses are not available. Companies will need to email appointment/s information directly to the Department at: cid.licensing@ct.gov. Include: applicant full name, Connecticut license number, company name/s and NAIC #(s).
  5. All temporary licenses will automatically expire 180 days from the date of issuance unless applicant has submitted an email advising that they have passed the exam.
    Email: cid.licensing@ct.gov. Be sure to include your license number or national producer number (NPN).

Upon receipt, the Department will review the passed exam information and update expiration date to appropriate birth month expiration and will send an email confirmation.​

Apr 21
Notice to All Life Insurance Companies Authorized to Conduct Business in Connecticut Concerning Covid-19 Related Questions in Life Insurance Applications

​The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak in the United States including Connecticut continues to affect the lives of all individuals as it is a respiratory disease that spreads easily from person to person and poses a risk of serious illness or death.  Public health officials have yet to determine the long term effects on individuals who have contracted or come in contact with the disease. The Governor of Connecticut has declared public health and civil preparedness emergencies proclaiming a state of emergency throughout Connecticut as a result of the COVID- 19 outbreak and has issued executive orders to protect the public.

The Insurance Commissioner, pursuant to his authority, has issued Bulletins, Notices, and Guidance as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak to protect the public interest in accordance with his duties and hereby issues this Notice for such purpose.

All life insurance companies authorized to conduct business in Connecticut are hereby advised that any life insurance application form filed for review with the Connecticut Insurance Department should not include medical or other questions related to COVID-19, including, but not limited to, questions about being quarantined. Any life insurance application form filing that contain such questions will not be approved.

This prohibition shall continue until the declaration of public health and civil preparedness emergency issued by the Governor is terminated.

Please contact the Insurance Department Life and Health Division at cid.lh@ct.gov with any questions.​

Apr 17
Ohio Mutual Announces 25 Percent Premium Credits for Personal Auto Policyholders
BUCYRUS, OH – Ohio Mutual Insurance Group is offering personal auto premium credits on more than 80,000 personal auto policies for an estimated total of $6 million. This action is in response to the abrupt reduction in driving and corresponding auto claims attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to shelter-in-place orders across the country, there has been a significant reduction in personal auto losses. In response, Ohio Mutual is voluntarily providing a 25% personal auto premium credit that applies to an 11-week period (March 16 – May 31, 2020) for all policies in-force on May 31. Credits will be automatically applied to customers’ first invoice after June 1. Those with a balance less than the credit will receive a refund by check.

“Our goal is to do the right thing for our loyal policyholders in response to the sudden impact of the pandemic,” said Ohio Mutual President & CEO Mark C. Russell. “We know that many people are struggling at this time, so Ohio Mutual will continue to provide billing flexibility for customers experiencing financial difficulty, and to support vulnerable members of our community.”

In addition to the billing accommodations and personal auto premium credits, Ohio Mutual has recently made significant financial donations to support the work of the Salvation Army feeding program, the Children’s Hunger Alliance, and local healthcare facilities.

Ohio Mutual Insurance Group, founded in 1901 and based in Bucyrus, OH, partners with more than 400 independent agencies to distribute quality property and casualty insurance products throughout CT, IN, ME, NH, OH, RI, and VT. Ohio Mutual has maintained a rating of “A / Stable” from A.M. Best Co. for 24 consecutive years, and was named to the Ward’s 50 six times since 2009. Additional company information is available at www.omig.com​.
Apr 17
Trusted Choice COVID-19 Relief Fund for Big "I" Members CT

​Dear Independent Insurance Agents of Connecticut Member,​

I hope you are remaining healthy during the pandemic and the challenges it's bringing. I know it's a difficult time for you, your families, and your colleagues.
 
That's why the Big "I" wants to help. With a generous $2 million contribution by Progressive Insurance, we have established the Trusted Choice® COVID-19 Relief Fund, which will make grants to help independent insurance agencies and brokerages and their employees who have been economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Grants may be used to cover expenses not covered by insurance, other grants, or federal or state loan programs. 
 
The mission of the Trusted Choice COVID-19 Relief Fund is to provide economic assistance to independent agencies, agents, and employees needing help during the pandemic. Criteria for receiving a grant from the Big "I" can range from lost wages and benefits, such as health insurance; medical expenses not subject to reimbursement; and office and operational expenses that cannot be paid due to financial strains or hardship. More detailed criteria and an application can be found on our website. To learn more about the Fund, you are invited to watch this short video I recorded and to view a message from Progressive President & CEO Tricia Griffith.
 
The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, Inc. (IIABA, national Big "I"), and the Independent Insurance Agents of Connecticut, Inc.  are working virtually around the clock to protect and promote your profession and your agency – with federal and state legislators, regulators, legal experts, carriers, the media, and of course, consumers.  We understand the pain your commercial lines clients are feeling and we are working with several national business and retail associations in Washington, D.C. who have members who are truly hurting, including restaurants. We also understand what you are facing or on the precipice of facing with a reduction in premium and revenue, which is why the Big "I" has been advocating with our carrier partners.
 
To learn more about these efforts, please join us for the Big "I" Virtual Legislative Conference during the week of May 11. This virtual event is crucial for independent agents and brokers, as federal legislation is coming fast and furious with critical implications for independent agencies and agents. More information will be forthcoming.
 
Again, kudos to Progressive Insurance for providing funds to establish the Trusted Choice COVID-19 Relief Fund! And remember, the Big "I" has a vast array of other vital information available on our website for your agency and employees to cope with the pandemic.   
 
Big "I" member agencies, agents and employees are the greatest!  Please feel free to contact CovidRelief@iiaba.net should you have specific questions on the new grant program, or you can contact anyone at the Big "I" 703-683-4422 with questions at any time. 
 
All my best,
 
Bob
 
Robert Rusbuldt
President & CEO, IIABA
Apr 16
Big ‘I’ Receives $2 Million for Trusted Choice® COVID-19 Relief Fund from Progressive

Progressive donation to provide relief to Big ‘I’ members facing pandemic challenges.​

ALEXANDRIA, VA, April 16, 2020— The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I”) is pleased to announce that Progressive Insurance has donated $2 million dollars to establish the Trusted Choice® COVID-19 Relief Fund in response to the economic and operational challenges the coronavirus crisis has presented to independent agencies.

The grant will be dispersed directly to independent agencies via a Big “I” application process to meet those agencies’ critical needs in the midst of the pandemic.  Independent agencies can apply for assistance online​.

“The Big ‘I’ is so grateful for Progressive’s generosity in leading the charge to support the independent agency community during these unprecedented times,” says Bob Rusbuldt, Big “I” president & CEO, who created a video message to address the donation and new fund. “Big ‘I’ agents and agencies are facing unforeseen obstacles even as they seek to help their clients and communities in their time of need. To see Progressive step up and provide tangible, innovative support is a powerful reminder that we’re all in this together. I know this will make an enormous difference to our agencies as they provide essential services across the country.”

“Other insurance carriers and industry partners are welcome to provide resources to support this new 501(c)(3) charitable fund,” Rusbuldt says. “With the impending loss of premium from retail and service businesses, independent agencies are now beginning to experience what many of their business clients are experiencing.  Some agencies are also facing equipment shortages, staffing challenges and other barriers during the coronavirus pandemic.”  

The donation is part of Progressive’s broader Apron Relief Program, which will also return approximately $1 billion in premiums to customers; provide an expedited claims experience for insured first responders and health care workers in a car accident; cover health insurance co-pays for Progressive employees’ telemedicine visits and cover costs of coronavirus medical treatments and donate to charities focused on hunger, health and homelessness and more, according to the press release

“Our Apron Relief Program is designed to help Progressive assist our four key stakeholders—employees, customers, communities and agents—and doing so ultimately will serve our shareholders as well,” says Tricia Griffith, Progressive president & CEO. “Partnering with the Big ‘I’ in its dedication to serve independent agents gives us the ability to provide grant assistance quickly and broadly to agents across the country who are affected by this pandemic. By sticking together, we’ll come through this stronger.”

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Progressive has created a resource page on their agent portal, ForAgentsOnly.com, to provide up-to-date information to agencies. The Big “I” also has a coronavirus resource page​ with original articles, tools, webinars, news items and more to assist its members and their clients.

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. 
Apr 16
Insurance Commissioner Praises Insurers for Allowing ‘No-Cost’ Covid-19 Coronavirus Testing And Treatment – Urges Employer Plans To Follow

​The economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has placed families in financial hardship. Out of pocket costs should not be a barrier to seeking treatment during these uncertain times. The nation’s insurance capital is seeing another demonstration of how insurers can work together to help their policyholders.

All fully-insured plan health plan members, including those with high-deductible health plans, are now receiving testing and treatment for COVID-19 with no out of pocket costs.
Connecticut Insurance Department Commissioner Andrew N. Mais commended the state’s insurance carriers that offer fully-insured health plans for waiving COVID-19 all pandemic related out of pocket costs for testing and treatment. The Commissioner also urges all employers who offer workers a self-funded plan under ERISA to waive testing and treatment costs as well.

“Our insurance industry here in Connecticut has answered the call and responded to help protect those most affected by our current crisis,” said Commissioner Mais. “I urge all self-funded, employer-based plan sponsors to follow suit and remove financial barriers to testing and treatment for their workers and their families.”

Department of Social Services Commissioner Deirdre S. Gifford also praised the state’s insurance carriers and noted that public health coverage is also available to Connecticut residents who qualify.

“In Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, together known as HUSKY Health in Connecticut, we are fully covering COVID-19 testing and treatment without any cost-sharing,” said Commissioner Gifford. “I join Commissioner Mais and our legislative partners in encouraging all employer plan sponsors to make any changes that may be necessary to cover this critical area for employees and their dependents.”

“No one should ever put off treatment for any illness let alone COVID-19 because of cost and I’m grateful to the insurers for recognizing we are all in this together and stepping up to waive cost sharing for those fighting coronavirus,” said State Representative Sean Scanlon, House Co-chair of the legislature’s Insurance and Real Estate Committee.

“Connecticut residents should know that in most cases they can access coronavirus testing and - importantly - treatment without worrying about copays, deductibles or cost-sharing. This is absolutely critical to controlling the virus in Connecticut,” said State Senator Matt Lesser, Co-chair of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee. “Absolutely nobody should go without testing or treatment because they can’t afford it. All fully insured plans in Connecticut have now waived deductibles and cost-sharing and self-insured plans are moving in that direction. If you are covered by a self-insured plan, please check with your employer or ASO."

Consumers should take note that there are some differences among plans and policyholders should contact their insurer or employer to provide additional information on important details.

The Connecticut Insurance Department regulates fully-insured health insurance plans issued in the State of Connecticut only. Some employers, especially large ones, sponsor self-funded health plans that are regulated by the U.S. Department of Labor under ERISA.

Consumers, insurers and brokers with questions can contact the department directly by email at insurance@ct.gov, online, or by calling the Department at 800-203-3447 or 860-297-3900.​
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