Over the past year, The Hartford Financial Services Group has launched several technology initiatives aimed at making life easier for distributors. Those efforts will continue this year as new features and functionality are added to The Hartford's eService and eSales programs.Last year, the company introduced the industry's first premium audit search tool available to agents through the Internet. This online tool augments the company's policy, billing and claims service capabilities available to agents through its Electronic Business Center (EBC), a secure Web extranet built exclusively for independent agents that represent The Hartford. Using this tool, agents can use the Internet to quickly determine the outcome of a commercial customer's audit and the reasons for any premium adjustment.

Another eService effort the company launched makes it easier for agents using agency management software from Applied Systems Inc., University Park, Ill. to do business with The Hartford. New features provide billing inquiry, direct-bill commission statement download, first notice of loss and policy inquiry. First notice of loss, which will be launched this spring, will enable the agents to take information about a loss over the telephone, put the information directly into the Applied system, and electronically submit it to the insurer.

The Hartford's eSales program includes its Quote-to-Issue (QTI) for homeowners insurance and QTI for auto insurance, which have already rolled out in 10 states including Alabama, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, New York and South Carolina. QTI will be made available to more states this year.

The QTI programs are bridged using ACORD XML standards and enable straight-through processing for auto insurance from the AfW agency management system from AMS Services, Windsor, Conn., and certain comparative raters. The data bridges enable virtual single entry and the transfer of customer information between auto and homeowner insurance modules.

In another eSales effort, information technology has been applied to eliminate the need to re-key large amounts of property, auto and workers compensation data as part of the application and rating process for middle-market business. The Hartford is believed to be the first insurer to successfully accept exposure schedules in an XML transaction based on ACORD XML large commercial standards.

The carrier is now able to populate these XML transactions with data extracted from Excel spreadsheets or directly accept XML data streams from partners. Accepting the data electronically improves productivity and accuracy and enables underwriters to more quickly respond to agents and brokers about whether the company will quote a particular account.

The Hartford's eSales effort is also targeting insurance buyers at small and mid-sized companies. The Hartford recently unveiled two interactive Web sites for businesses with up to 500 employees. Located at www.sb.thehartford.com and www.mb.thehartford.com, the sites help insurance buyers at small and medium-sized companies, respectively, to make educated decisions regarding their coverage and risk management needs. The sites include customized coverage analyzers, guidelines for evaluating an insurance proposal, and a library of risk management information.

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