If you’re like most people, that word elicits a good solid “blech!” whenever you read it or hear it.
But that’s unfortunate, says Jane O’Malley, a co-owner of Coringrato Insurance Agency, because everyone will need some type of coverage sooner or later.
She should know. O’Malley and her sister/co-owner Joan Shafer practically grew up in their
Ettore “Ed” Coringrato founded his eponymous agency in 1953 as a side business; his regular occupation was that of toolmaker. “He sold insurance during evening hours and on weekends,” O’Malley says. “For many years, his customers came to our home to make insurance payments, report claims, or just to talk with him. We’d often ride in the back seat while Dad drove around on Saturdays, delivering insurance policies to his customers.”
COMING FULL CIRCLE
Although many offspring are groomed from childhood to join the family business, the sisters had other ideas.
“Neither of us was interested in the insurance field,” she says. Both sisters obtained bachelor’s degrees in business administration as well as MBAs. O’Malley’s career path took her to Air Products & Chemicals and to Bell Atlantic Properties; Joan spent many years at Alpo Petfoods.
But in 1990, Ed announced his intention to either find a partner or sell the business outright (he was pushing 70, after all).
That was O’Malley’s cue: she came back to the Valley and became an agency partner that year. Joan signed on in 1992, and became a partner in 2009. Nevertheless, Ed still has his hands in the business; as “partner emeritus,” he continues to come to the office from time to time.
Today, Coringrato Insurance is an independent agent. The firm represents numerous insurance companies that provide life, home, auto, and business policies.
PICKING AND CHOOSING
That gives clients plenty of flexibility in choices. Exclusive agents—employed by a single carrier such as John Hancock—are naturally limited to that company’s products. Independent agents don’t operate under that restriction.
“Every insurance company has different underwriting guidelines and different pricing structures,” O’Malley says. “Because we deal with so many, we can help our clients find the specific coverage they need. We even work with a company that insures DUI violators.”
From its founding, Coringrato Insurance built solid relationships with its clients, treating them as much more than just policy numbers. And it’s a tradition that still holds.
“We make sure they understand what their policy covers and what it doesn’t; answer all of their questions; review their current life situations; discuss how their circumstances might change in the future; and suggest ways to be prepared for those changes. It isn’t a ‘write the policy and be done’ operation,” she says.
Customers appreciate Coringrato Insurance’s old-school approach, as evidenced by its numerous long-term clients. “We often have fun challenging their memories,” O’Malley says. “For example, I mentioned to a client that he bought an auto policy from us in 1966. When I asked if he remembered that car, he quickly replied that it was a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air which he’d purchased in 1961 for the grand sum of $800!”
At the same time, the agency has acquired substantial new business because of recommendations from satisfied clients.
Because insurance can be complicated and intimidating—and because it’s an intangible product—many people just neglect it, or buy a one-size-fits-all policy.
And that’s not the way to do it.
O’Malley offered a few of the many reasons for considering your coverage carefully.
“This could be one of your most important purchases,” she says. Although some TV commercials tout life insurance mostly as a way to pay “final expenses,” you can do much more with it.
“You can direct the payout to be a lump sum to a beneficiary, who can then use the money as desired. Some people will use it to pay off a mortgage or finance a trip. You might specify that the funds will be applied to your children’s college expenses, or leave them with a nest egg,” O’Malley says. Of course, there are other options as well, which you can explore when you purchase the policy.
In addition to protecting your dwelling and personal property, a homeowner’s policy will include liability coverage for accidents involving other people. But your personal circumstances might indicate more protection from sinkholes, flooding, or earthquakes, and not all companies offer
“Renters should consider having insurance, too,” she says. “If there’s a fire and you have no coverage, you’re done. But the right policy will protect your belongings and provide some living expenses until the claim is settled.”
Everyone’s required to have auto insurance, right? So why do most companies need information on all the other drivers in your household? “Because you might lend your car to someone else. If that driver’s involved in an accident—but isn’t named on your policy—you can be held responsible for the outcome,” O’Malley said. “Be sure to tell your agent whenever a child gets a license. You’ll be sure to have the proper coverage and the right premium.”
Even the smallest operation can benefit from proper coverage, O’Malley says. A solid business insurance policy can protect the building and its contents—computers, furniture, shelving—your inventory, even loss-of-income. Liability coverage can apply to accidents on your property. If you produce goods such as food products or electrical appliances, product insurance can help shield your business against claims by customers.
AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION
O’Malley’s final advice? Be proactive.
“Your needs and desires will change over time,” she says. “When your policy comes up for renewal, look it over and be sure you understand it. You might need to add some coverage, or amend something else. And don’t hesitate to call your agent at any time with questions or concerns.
“I wish all of our clients would check in with us twice a year to review their situations,” she concluded.
Coringrato Insurance Agency
235 Pershing Boulevard