When it comes to insurance for English-speakers in Israel, Egert & Cohen Insurance is the agency that speaks your language and understands your needs.
Egert & Cohen Insurance is a Jerusalem-based brokerage— with branches in RBS and Gush Etzion—that specializes in helping English-speaking olim, tourists and students in Israel. Apart from regular insurance (home, car, health, life, business etc.) they also arrange health insurance for the leading yeshivot and seminary programs.
Egert & Cohen also specialize in travel insurance for groups, pregnant women, and anyone with special requirements. Their goal is to find the best insurance solution for each individual client’s situation.
The company was started in 1985 by Roman Egert, Z”L, who made Aliyah after a long career as a successful insurance broker and community activist in South Africa. In time, his son-in-law, Shimon Cohen and his son, Yona Egert, joined the company and the name Egert & Cohen was born. We sat down with Shimon Cohen to discuss the makings of one of the leading Anglo insurance agencies.
What makes Egert Cohen different from other insurance companies?
We look at our clients as family; we go the extra mile to do whatever is necessary to make sure their needs are thoroughly met. Sometimes that entails going to small claims court for them, hand delivering policies, fighting with the head of insurance companies to settle claims, and getting claims paid even when they are not actually valid (lfnei mishurat hadin). Insurance is not just our business, it’s our life’s mission.
Who makes up most of your clients?
Our clientele consists mainly of English speakers because they are the ones who most appreciate our help to navigate the oftentimes confusing Israeli bureaucracy. However, we cater to Hebrew speakers as well. They make up about 30% of our customer base.
What changes have you seen in the industry since you opened the firm over 30 years ago? Change has been tremendous! I would have to say that the main change is that people now expect online, immediate service. A person can call you at 3:30 and request a new insurance policy by 3:35!
We are happy to provide an after-hour service. For example, if a person calls after working hours to purchase car insurance or to purchase traveler’s insurance as they are getting on the plane, we will do our best to provide the service.
Thanks to today’s information technology, we feel confident that we can finalize almost any transaction within 24 hours of the initial contact.
What character traits should someone look for in an insurance agent?
That can be summed up in just three words: honesty, integrity and reliability. There must be a mutual feeling of trust between the client and the insurance agent. Our clients know that whenever we give our word, we stand by it.
For example, if we give a quote on a policy that turns out to be more than we originally thought, we will give the client the original price. If one of our staff members makes a promise to a client and then with time we see it is difficult deliver on, we will do whatever it takes to make sure we follow through.
Nothing matters to us more than establishing and keeping the trust of our clients. From the moment a client takes out a policy with us, we strive to show them that they can count on us 100%.
Can you give us a few tips in some of the different areas of insurance?
- HOME INSURANCE First, let’s talk about home insurance. If you take out mortgage insurance through the bank, many people don’t know that it often doesn’t include third party liability. A private policy bought from a broker always does. So, for example, if a leak in your house causes damage to your neighbor; and ruins his very expensive Persian rug, the bank will not cover the cleanup or replacement costs. Since the bank only covers damage to your property (as that’s what they are interested in protecting), any expenses your neighbor incurs because of your leak will have to be covered out of your own pocket.
- MEDICAL INSURANCE Private medical insurance is something that many unfortunately don’t know enough about. Although we have socialized medicine in Israel, there are many instances that the kupot cholim don’t cover fully or at all, even at the highest coverage level.
We strongly recommend that everyone should have basic supplementary insurance which covers you for three main things: operations overseas, transplants and medicines that are not in the health basket (sal bruit). These policies are very inexpensive but give you so much peace of mind! If someone, chas v’shalom, needs a kidney transplant, for example, the last thing you want to do in the middle of such a stressful situation is fight with your kupah to get coverage, which proves even more difficult if the medical procedure involves going overseas. We also offer medical policies for tourists and students.
- TRAVEL INSURANCE Travel insurance is very relevant this time of year and it could be a costly mistake to pass on it because you are worried about the price. One of the essential services we offer is dealing with any claims you might have either why you are still overseas or after your return to Israel.
- BUSINESS INSURANCE Every business has its own unique character and challenges. We specialize in putting together comprehensive and personalized business insurance policies for practically every type of business. The policy includes third party liability, workers’ compensation, product liability, cyber security, etc.
- CAR INSURANCE One of the main insurance decisions that car owners deal with is when to stop paying comprehensive insurance (bituach makif)— which covers your car both from damage caused by someone else and damage that you cause—and pay only for third party liability which means it only covers damage you cause to someone else. In general, we advise that a car that’s more than 10 years old should only take third party coverage— which is obviously much cheaper.
- LIFE INSURANCE Life insurance is something people hesitate to talk about and spend on, but it’s something everyone needs, especially young couples. Today, the cost of life insurance is at an all-time low and very affordable. It’s sad when we see notices on the shul’s walls that Ploni passed away and left behind a wife and three orphans (or five or ten) with no source of income.
There is really no excuse for someone to not have a life insurance policy and it’s every parent’s obligation to make sure their family is taken care of in case of a catastrophe.
What’s the difference between going through an independent insurance agent and going directly through a company?
We are independent agents, so perhaps we have a vested interest. However Anglos, who are our target market, are used to personalized and reliable western-type service. They want an agent that they can call in middle of the night if need be, and that can help them negotiate with Israeli insurance companies.
Our clients soon come to know that we are always on their side and that we work tirelessly on their behalf. When it comes to a claim we will fight it out with the insurance company, use our extensive contacts on the managerial level, even go to small-claims court if necessary.
If you go directly through the insurance provider, it is often the case that the same company that is paying out the claim is not likely to be your best advocate. In my opinion, certainly for the English-speaking clients, having an independent agent is a must.
What are some recent cases you have dealt with?
We have two clients who were living in a Jerusalem building that recently suffered a gas explosion. The building has since been condemned and entrance is forbidden. One of our clients can actually see the contents of his apartment from the road! We are now negotiating with the insurance company for him to receive compensation for alternate living arrangements and for him to get paid out in full for his contents—even though they are visibly there and intact—because he has no access to them.
We are also dealing with a claim involving a bus that leaked oil which caused seven cars to skid. The last car smashed into our client’s car that was parked on the side of the road. It has been very challenging to determine who the guilty party is and what needs to be done. This is an example of complicated claim where we conduct all the negotiations on behalf of the client, saving him hours of aggravation.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
As mentioned earlier, I feel very good knowing that I am not just running a business, but that I have the privilege of helping people get through some of the most difficult times they are likely to face. They say that an insurance agent is never the same after he pays out his first life insurance payment. I find that to be true. When you present a widow with a check which will at least ease her financial burden, you know that you’ve done your part to help a family recover from a tragedy.
On a different level, it is always a pleasure to process a claim and deliver payment in a timely manner to a client. The whole idea of v’ahavta l’reyecha k’mocha is something we instill in our staff. Our business is not just about paper-work and collecting the premiums—it’s all about the people we help.
We had a young man come into the office a year and a half ago, and in the course of our conversation, we discovered that he didn’t have life insurance. Although he insisted he was too young to think about life insurance, we convinced him to take out a disability and life policy on the spot.
Two months later this man was unfortunately diagnosed with cancer. He’s still fighting this terrible illness (and b’ezrat Hashem he should have a refuah shlayma!) but in the meantime, he is getting a check every month from the insurance with which to support his family. It’s a classic example of being in the right place at the right time and making sure the right thing was done.
What are your plans for the future of Egert and Cohen?
Currently, I have two of my sons working in the business providing the meticulous, personalized service we are known for to the next generation. We look forward to servicing the community for many years to come and to consistently fulfill our motto: “We’re here when you need us!”
Shimon Cohen is the manager of Egert & Cohen Insurance. Egert & Cohen is a family business that specializes in serving the Anglo and new olim populations. They provide a friendly and professional one-stopshop for all your insurance needs.
Egert & Cohen can be reached at 02-622-7999 or through their website www.egertcohen.co.il.