Filed Under:Carrier Innovations, Technology Implementation

NU Agency of the Year Award, Curabba Agency: Classic values, new tactics

A small-town, old-fashioned insurance agency tweaks its business model to compete in the digital age

The Curabba Agency staff in front of their office in Middletown, N.Y. From left: Sheryl Abernethy, Amanda Gonzalez, Greg Hogan and Patricia Frantz.

For all of technology's benefits and business applications, Greg Hogan is proof that independent insurance agents are sunk without a healthy dose of humanity.

“One of the things that the industry has gotten away from is personalization,” says Hogan, 57, who took over the Curabba Agency in Middletown, N.Y., in 2015 after working for 27 years as a health insurance and P&C broker. Hogan now steers a Main Street storefront business with some client relationships that reach back generations.

“We are a 70-year-old community agency that is being reborn to compete in an Internet age with new thinking, but old values,” Hogan continues. “We are leveraging technology more and more [but] also holding onto our old values when serving both our clients and our community.”

Modernizing a traditional insurance agency means catering to customers who only want to communicate via text — even on weekends and holidays — as well as long-timers who enjoy dropping by the office to pay their monthly premium and connect face-to-face with their insurance agent, if only for a few minutes.

“Communication is more than just words,” Hogan says. “It's seeing people and looking them in the eye. That's when you find out what's going on with people and other family members. That's how you round accounts.”

As someone who was raised in the community where he works and also reared his own family there, Hogan takes seriously his agency's role as a member of that community. To that end:

  • Curabba Agency has donated thousands of dollars to the Middletown YMCA's Strong Kids campaign.

  • Hogan has served on the YMCA Board of Directors for a decade, with three years spent as board president.

  • The agency was a lead sponsor of Middletown High School's National Honor Society Touch-a-Truck event, which raised more than $2,000 for a children's cancer charity.

  • Curabba Agency recently donated to the Dispute Resolution Center, a group with the mission of promoting peaceful conflict resolution, particularly among children.

  • Hogan teaches regular classes for the local chapter of SCORE, an organization that offers free business mentorship.

  • The Curabba Agency also opened its conference room to SCORE counselors, who now offer business mentorship meetings there.

“We cannot expect our community and clients to support us if we don't earn that support every day,” says Hogan. “Finding and keeping clients is always a challenge, but it's a little easier when you maintain a good reputation.”

The agency set out in 2017 to donate 1% of its revenue (not profits) to local charities. Hogan insists that being involved in philanthropy and maintaining a high profile in the community is part of Curabba's effort to engender goodwill among its neighbors.

The YMCA of Middletown is one of the Curabba Agency's largest clients. Here, Greg Hogan talks in his office with Ira Besdansky, CEO of the YMCA of Middletown.

“These charities and causes are important to us,” he says. “We donate because we want to, not to get publicity. The people connected to these charities are our clients and friends, and we feel it's important to support their work.”

The agency's good will would appear to go a long way in Middletown, a Hudson Valley city of about 28,000 residents, according to U.S. Census Bureau.

Roughly a third of Curabba's book is health insurance policies, 20% to 25% is commercial, and the remainder is personal lines.

“Our agency has its roots in a combined real estate/insurance office,” Hogan notes. “The real estate portion was sold off years ago, but we still enjoy healthy, two-way referral relationships with realtors and attorneys. Many turn into multi-policy clients.”

Hogan must acknowledge, however, that maximizing technology is essential to servicing these clients in an era when securing an insurance quote can be as easy for the consumer as three clicks of a computer mouse. Consider these ways in which Hogan and his agency have embraced new high-tech tools:

  • The agency is engaged in an active SEO and social media strategy.

  • Agents use the software platform PL Rater to quickly generate multiple quotes, evaluate existing policies and produce fresh prospects. “Even the most loyal customers want to see that you are actually working for them, not just collecting their money,” Hogan says.

  • The agency maintains a detailed, cloud-based client database, and now prints to PDFs that are saved there rather than keeping extensive paper files. “Our postage costs are down significantly and our paper costs are a fraction of what they have historically been,” Hogan says.

“Looking forward, we will grow through a combination of referrals, clients who find us online and clients we source through targeted campaigns in niche industries,” adds Hogan. “We feel Independent Agents offer the best options for clients to secure the protection they need.”

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