Progressive Earns High PraiseProgressive Insurance's Internet initiatives have earned high praise from industry observers. Now, the Mayfield Village, Ohio-based carrier has garnered two separate awards for its online offerings.

ECom-Ohio, a group of 16 private-sector companies in Ohio that promotes best practices for e-commerce, recently presented E-Commerce Pioneer Awards to companies in various business sectors, including healthcare, telecommunications, government, education and financial services.

The criteria used to rank each entry included revenue and profitability enhancement, workforce improvement, enhanced competitiveness, increased collaborative power and proportion of customers impacted.

Progressive was cited as the top Web site in its business category, and won a special award for "business transformation," which ECom-Ohio defines as recognizing a "company that has successfully enhanced its strategy to respond to, or take advantage of, evolving business conditions."

The panel recognized Progressive for the development of its agent-dedicated Web site,, the site, and Progressive's online customer-service center,

Separately, Progressive was named the "Best Insurance Web site" in the Web Marketing Association's 2002 WebAward competition. The award was based on an expert panel's review of criteria including innovation, navigation, interactivity, content, ease of use and usefulness to its target audience.

Study On Web Front-Ends Released

Celent Communications predicts that by 2005, the majority of U.S. insurers will offer agent and policyholder Web portals for new business, self-service, field-force management, and document distribution, and that most carriers will offer some features for online shoppers, if only to provide a "quick-quote" and refer them to an agent.

Although perhaps 15 to 20% of carriers are likely to replace their old core policy administration systems with fully Web-enabled solutions over the next few years, far more carriers are seeking to create Web-based interfaces to their existing back-end systems.

In a new report titled "Profiling the Vendors of Web Front-End Systems for Insurance Carriers," Boston-based Celent provides insurers with detailed analyses of the offerings from more than 30 vendors.

The reports are designed to inform carriers that are considering launching or upgrading a Web front-end solution about the challenges they face and the major vendor-provided solutions that can consider.

The report is available in two editions, one for property/casualty and another for life/health.

The Hartford Reaches Standards Milestone

Hartford, Conn.-based The Hartford Financial Services Group has eliminated the need to rekey large amounts of property, auto and workers compensation data as part of the application and rating process for middle market business. The Hartford is the first insurer to successfully accept exposure schedules in an XML transaction based on the ACORD XML large commercial standards. The carrier also is able to populate these XML transactions with data extracted from Excel spreadsheets, or directly accept XML streams from partners. Agents don't need to change their systems to take advantage of this capability.

"Insurers have made great strides in enhancing workflow for personal and small commercial insurance, but despite agent/broker requests they have not found a way to address the complexities of middle market policy applications," says Gary Thompson, senior vice president, middle market and specialty practices, at The Hartford. "We have developed an infrastructure that will allow us to bring the benefits of automation to this business sector in a nonproprietary way, and we're now beginning to use it."

The Hartford is now conducting a pilot to take in auto submissions in an Excel spreadsheet, convert them to XML streams, and push them to the company's internal commercial lines rating and policy writing system.

Texas Court Approves INSpire Reorganization Plan

A disclosure statement describing INSpire Insurance Solutions Inc.'s proposed plan of reorganization was approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth Division. The Fort Worth-based company filed the disclosure statement and the plan of reorganization with the bankruptcy court in late August.

INSpire has begun soliciting votes for approval of the plan and a confirmation hearing on the plan was scheduled for October 24, 2002. The deadline to object to and vote on the plan was October 21, 2002. The reorganization plan is subject to continuing negotiations and contemplates the sale of all the company's operating assets to CGI Group Inc., Montreal.

The plan, along with all other filings, can be obtained from INSpire's Web site at Execution of a definitive purchase agreement with CGI Group is subject not only to the bankruptcy court's approval, but also the negotiation of an agreement satisfactory to both parties and other conditions.

INSpire proposes that its business operations be integrated within CGI Group, and through CGI Group, INSpire will continue to offer complete policy and claims administration outsourcing, IT outsourcing, and software services. INSpire anticipates that all of its customer contracts will be assumed by and assigned to CGI Group and will work with its customers to make the transaction as smooth as possible.

MetLife Investors Taps AnnuityNet

MetLife Investors Group Inc., Newport Beach, Calif., recently signed an agreement with Leesburg, Va.-based AnnuityNet Inc., to implement a state-of-the-art Internet-based order-entry platform for distribution of the company's fixed and variable annuity products.

The agreement designates AnnuityNet to be a preferred provider of annuity order-entry technology services for MetLife Investor's network of distribution partners.

Using this technology, sales partners of MetLife Investors using the AnnuityNet platform will use an intelligent wizard that assists the representative through the application process while automatically checking for accuracy. This helps to avoid delays later in the process or having to repeat steps because of errors. Other key advantages of the platform are built-in suitability and compliance checks, and straight-through paperless processing, which delivers the application directly to MetLife Investor's back-office systems. Additional important benefits of the platform include enhanced sales tracking and reporting information available for sales.

"We believe it is strategically imperative to implement the right technology solutions with our distribution partners," says Ken Jaffe, executive vice president, Metlife Investors Group Inc. "AnnuityNet created the Web-based annuity processing model, and its state-of-the-art order entry platform will allow us to significantly improve operating efficiencies through our sales partners that use the AnnuityNet platform."

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