VJ and AJ Ghaness: Twin titans in the insurance biz

AJ Ghannes.
Photo by Buddy Singh

The first written insurance policy appeared in 1750 BC on a Babylonian obelisk monument carved with the code of King Hammurabi, assuring debtors they didn’t have to repay their loans if catastrophe struck.

Today’s average Joe is a birdbrain about claims, risks, premiums, and other industry jargon that can overturn dreams into nightmares on a dime.

Lucky for them then that insurance twins VJ and AJ Ghaness are around to save the day.

“Everything is touched by insurance,” says VJ.

“It’s one of the four cornerstones of the economy,” adds AJ.

The baby-faced, 34-year-old siblings from Guyana are local pit bulls in an industry dominated by the big dogs. Both are senior executive brokers at H and N Insurance Agency and Financial Group, a million-dollar company their father Harry started in their home basement in mid-1990s with a simple philosophy.

“He used to tell us, ‘The greatest treasure in the world is underneath your nose, it’s your mouth and if you use it effectively, you can get anything you want,’ ” say the twins with matched destinies.

Both have around 18 years of industry experience, starting at a wholesale insurance firm where they worked their way up from clerks to underwriters, and familiarized themselves with heavy-duty aspects of the trade, including insuring cargo and 90-story commercial buildings. Both are studying for their Charter Property and Casualty Underwriter designation — the industry’s highest attainment. Both are also problem solvers for clients unaware of the fine print peppering their policies.

A financially strapped Harlem non-profit with 16 low-income housing complex was forking over nearly a million dollars to 16 different insurers, until the Ghanesses resuscitated it by consolidating their insurance costs into one manageable policy. A homeowner found herself $425,000 in debt after a fire burned down her home, but she recouped the full amount after the twins found her an adjustor who successfully fought her claim in court.

“She got paid in full and her house was restored,” says AJ.

Family and community are key to their success, claim the twins. Last summer their mother Nadi created a benefit drive for terminally ill children in Guyana and personally delivered the toys to pediatric patients in hospitals. And when their ancestral village was ravaged by a flood, Harry and Nadi chartered a boat and brought essential supplies to the victims’ doorsteps. The brothers have followed suit, mentoring youngsters through the Indo-Caribbean Alliance outreach group they helped to form, and speaking motivationally at churches, schools, and community events.

Insurance has been their ticket to life and enhanced it exponentially, adds the pair.

“The industry has allowed us to experience real world scenarios and grow into the men we have become,” they say proudly.

HOME COUNTRY:

Guyana.

EDUCATION:

Road scholars; AJ attended Queens Community College.

OCCUPATION:

Senior executive brokers.

PERSON WE ADMIRE:

“Our father Harry because of his relentless pursuit for success.”

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