The value of transparency
For Scarsdale, New York-based insurance specialists Advocate Brokerage Corp, transparency is at the heart of how they do business.
“You will always get honesty out of me,” explains Principal and Owner Denise Koslowsky. “I will tell you what I think and how I feel—that’s the way I do my job.”
Denise’s candor and strength are traits shared by her mother, Advocate’s Founder and President Rosalyn Binday, who launched the agency in back in 1969. In fact, transparency is a core value that can be seen everywhere at Advocate—from the way the agency serves clients, to the partnerships they forge with affiliate carriers, to how the team works together.
Advocate’s business has been driven by values since the beginning. The agency was started by Rosalyn in the late 1960’s, a time when it was rare to see young women leading in the insurance space—let alone at the helm of their own independent agencies.
As the story goes, Rosalyn’s foray into the business began when her husband, Ronald Binday, himself an insurance agent, encouraged her to obtain her own license.
“At the time, my mother had two small boys and a daughter on the way. She told my dad, ‘If I’m going to spend six months in school studying for my insurance license, I am going all in!’ ” reflects Denise.
Six months later, Rosalyn proudly hung up her plaque—and promptly began pounding the pavement to generate business. She was a natural, finding new opportunities and relationships everywhere—even chatting up strangers on the supermarket checkout line.
“I learned how to be a saleswoman by watching my mother in action,” Denise recalls.
Since then, Advocate’s business has become a family affair. Ronald, Denise and her brother Glenn have since joined the firm, as has Denise’s husband, Jeff. The Advocate team now stands 40+ members strong, and serves a growing book of thousands of satisfied clients in the Westchester area and around the country.
A phone call away
When working with new clients, it’s no surprise that Advocate agents take disclosure seriously. This means granularly detailing precisely what policies cover—as well as what they exclude, in an ongoing effort to eradicate contractual ambiguities. After all, building an understanding of the product is key to breeding trust and generating consumer confidence.
Another key is identifying coverage gaps and areas where clients might be underserved by their current insurance programs. When it comes to personal insurance, Advocate has a specialized focus on serving successful clients and families.
“There are always growth opportunities and teachable moments,” explains Denise.
“I recently spoke with a woman who was closing on a new vacation house in Shelter Island,” she recalls. “The home was a cozy beachfront cottage, but as I got to know the client, I realized that that her personal net worth was quite high, which means, among other things, a higher liability exposure. We went back to the basics and really explained the essentials of her homeowner’s and liability coverage to figure out a program that would be a good fit.”
This story is by no means unique. In fact, many successful clients come to Advocate through referrals, seeking more customized coverage and service to handle sophisticated needs such as high-value homes, art or valuable item collections, or properties held in the name of a trust or LLC. For the team at Advocate, taking on each new client brings a commitment they stand by.
“We’re not in it just to make a sale,” explains Denise. “We only write the right business for us, and we make sure each client feels like they’re our only client.”
As company owners, Denise and Rosalyn march in lockstep in their resolve to avail themselves to clients, at all times. And while clients have dedicated account managers, they know that the pair is just a phone call away if they ever have questions. It’s this dedication that has made Advocate’s service award-winning. In fact, Denise and Roz both recently received the Five Star Award for Excellence in Community Service, an honor made even more meaningful because it was earned through peer recommendations.
Community and celebrations
Given Advocate’s origin story, it makes perfect sense that its workplace fosters a familial atmosphere—both inside its walls and in the broader community.
Team members enthusiastically support and participate in volunteer and fundraising events for organizations which include Backyard Sports, Steve’s Camp at Horizon Farms, and Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling. In fact, the agency’s executive team even serves as board members for many of the groups they work with.
Periodically throughout the year, the team’s collective hard work is balanced by stress-relieving, team-building activities. Holiday parties often feature Westchester County’s legendary Walter’s hot dog truck, where employees graze on dogs, and waffle fries. But according to Denise, the tasty fare is most thoroughly enjoyed by the younger specialists that Advocate has steadily been bringing on board.
“We shift our hiring to where the top talent is, and recently that means bringing on several new, young, energetic members of the team,” says Denise. “I can’t wait to see what the next phase of our journey brings.”
From the ground up
Another area where Advocate is looking forward is in continuing to build strategic relationships with both existing and new affiliate carriers. Here, too, the agency’s culture of transparency equally applies.
“I want to know exactly who I’m dealing with, so I can do right by my clients,” Denise enthuses.
The agency is dedicated to equally representing multiple providers to clients, who they believe deserve a full slate of options when choosing their coverage models. When contemplating working with a new partner in Berkley One, a Berkley Company, Denise’s admiration for Berkley One’s President Kathleen Tierney ultimately paved the way for the decision to work together.
“Kathy is one of the smartest people in the industry,” says Denise. “She values the importance of due diligence and openness, and I have confidence that, guided by her leadership, Berkley One will be a good fit for us.”
Denise likewise appreciated the opportunity to work closely with Berkley One’s team from the very beginning of the personal insurance startup’s launch in New York State.
“By working with a provider from the ground up, I know we can grow together,” Denise explains. “And by being an important agent to our partners, we are able to do our best by clients.”
It’s the sort of commitment and honesty that clients, partners, and employees alike have come to appreciate about working with Advocate.
Advocate Brokerage Corp offers Business Insurance and Personal Insurance, including Homeowners Insurance, Auto Insurance, Personal Umbrella Insurance, Valuable Items Insurance, and Watercraft Insurance. The agency is based in Scarsdale, New York.