Virtual Consulting From ZurichZurich North America, a Schaumburg, Ill.-based property/casualty insurer has launched a Web-based service to provide small-business insurance agents and their customers with industry-specific risk engineering support. Called Virtual Consulting, the system helps small businesses identify causes of loss and recommends possible control strategies that can be implemented by managers to reduce these exposures. Available free of charge through Zurich's eZSB Web site for small-business agents, the Virtual Consulting service generates a loss prevention report containing exposure information, major causes of loss and strategies to prevent losses. The report is created in Adobe PDF format.

M&A Site For Brokers

The mergers & acquisitions division of New York-based American International Group Inc. (AIG) has launched a newly designed global Web site at www.AIGMergerRisks.com. The site is intended to be a key resource for insurance brokers, lawyers, investment bankers, private equity managers and other professionals who advise commercial clients on transaction-related risks. The Web site includes deal summaries, information on transactional insurance trends and techniques, and articles and commentary from third-party sources.

A New Name For Ebix

Atlanta-based ebix.com Inc., an international e-commerce solutions provider to the insurance industry, has changed its name to Ebix Inc. To mark the event, the company also announced a new logo that can be seen at www.ebix.com. Over the last few quarters, the company has expanded its portfolio of services with a strong focus on custom software development and business process outsourcing, according to Robin Raina, chairman, president & CEO of Ebix Inc. "The former name did not do justice to our brick-and-mortar infrastructure in India and the related BPO, call center and development divisions," he says.

Online Sales At Liberty Northwest

Liberty Northwest Insurance Corp., a Portland, Ore.-based property/casualty insurer, launched an Internet sales platform for auto and home policies using technology from IBQ Systems, Spokane, Wash. Liberty Northwest's agents can now quote, rate, complete an application and upload through a single platform. The platform enables agents to use any type of Internet connection to quote and write policies from anywhere at any time using one program. The company is backed by its parent company, Liberty Mutual.

Travelers Life Products On WebStory

Travelers Life & Annuity, a Hartford, Conn.-based part of Citigroup, is making its Annuity Funded Life and Muni Max products available on WebStory. WebStory is a customized Web-based presentation system-from on pTeraDac Corp., Eagan, Minn., which links directly from Travelers WinFlex and Travelers Life Illustration Systems. WebStory Advanced Marketing Presentation System provides text, schematics and graphics to help producers develop and present sales strategies in a format that facilitates the client's ease of understanding. Annuity Funded Life is tailored toward clients who have existing deferred annuities that will not be used for retirement. Muni Max is designed for clients with other assets that have not met expectation in terms of performance or income. Other Travelers Life & Annuity estate planning products available on WebStory include supplemental income, family income trust, lifetime exemption trust, credit shelter maximizer and family dynasty trust.

LYNX Launches Online Glass Claim Reporting

LYNX Services LLC., a Pittsburgh-based automotive glass insurance claims management provider, has launched an advanced electronic claim reporting application for auto glass service providers to initiate and report claims via the Internet and through their business management software systems. ClaimLaunch is being rolled out nationally beginning with Allstate Insurance Co., Northbrook, Ill. The application will enable glass shops to submit auto glass claims directly to LYNX Services via the company Web site, at www.lynxservices.com, without additional telephone calls to report the claim.

New Investment Resource From Manulife

Expanding its investment tools for financial advisors, Boston-based Manulife USA has introduced a new Web resource on its variable annuities Web site at www.manulifeusa.com. Through a single investment portal, registered users can access the latest thoughts and forecasts on the markets from some of the top firms in the industry, including T. Rowe Price Associates Inc., Pacific Investment Management Company (PIMCO), Fidelity Management & Research Co., and others. The portal is divided into four main sections: an informational page describing how Manulife USA selects the asset managers on the investment platforms; Market Outlook and Commentaries; the Asset Allocation Center and Sales Ideas.

MassMutual Gets Down To Business

The MassMutual Financial Group, Springfield, Mass., has redesigned its Web site at www.massmutual.com. The new design includes a new For Businesses section aimed at making it easier for business owners and benefits managers to identify potential business needs and to find products and services offered by MassMutual Financial Group companies. For Businesses includes four sections: Business Solutions, For Benefits Managers, For Business Owners, and Type of Business-each addressing a different audience. The MassMutual Financial Group is a marketing name for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. and its affiliates, which include: OppenheimerFunds Inc.; David L. Babson & Company Inc.; Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers Inc.; MML Investors Services Inc.; The MassMutual Trust Co. FSB; Antares Capital Corp.; MML Bay State Life Insurance Co.; C.M. Life Insurance Co.; and MassMutual International Inc.

Zions Bank Joins Quotesmith For Insurance

Zions Bank, a subsidiary of Zions Bancorporation, has signed on with Quotesmith.com, Darien, Ill., for online insurance and related fulfillment services. Salt Lake City-based Zions offers investment, mortgage, and insurance services, and has a network of loan origination offices for small businesses nationwide. Instant life and health insurance quotes from more than 200 top-rated insurance companies are immediately available at its Web site at www.zionsbank.com.

Travelers Rolls Out New E-Services

Travelers Property Casualty has been busy rolling out new e-commerce services to agents and customers. The Hartford, Conn.-based insurer is now providing new real-time e-service for loss runs, electronic policy view and billing inquiry for small commercial insurance policies through Kennewick, Wash.-based InStar Corp.'s agency management system. The transactions are processed through IVANS Transformation Station, an Internet managed data exchange for real-time transactions using ACORD XML from IVANS Inc. Old Greenwich, Conn.

In addition, Travelers has developed a process using TAMCentral, the Internet-based ASP version of agency management software from Applied Systems Inc., University Park, Ill. The process invokes interface and SEMCI tools and procedures to receive and format policy data, and transmits the data into Travelers' policy processing systems.

On the policyholder front, Travelers has introduced electronic claim alerts that automatically notify customers in real-time via e-mail of critical workers' compensation claim events. This capability is Travelers' latest service offering to increase its interaction with participants in the workers compensation process. Historically, the risk manager received notification of major claim events by a letter or an e-mail from the claim handler. Now major event notifications can be received electronically via email, or the alert may be sent to a pager or hand-held message device. With this new automatic notice, a unique link to the claim file is supplied that affords immediate access to the claim detail.

New Research On E-Health

Manhattan Research, a New York-based healthcare marketing and information services firm, has identified five critical trends driving the future of the consumer e-health market in 2004. The findings are derived from the recently released data set, Cybercitizen Health v3.0, a series of data analyzing the evolution of the e-health consumers available to Manhattan Research clients.

* The population of e-health consumers diversifies. The population consists of weekly users, sporadic users, family health managers, and drug information seekers. In 2004, organizations must further define the relevant subsegments for truly meaningful analysis, according to Manhattan Research.

* Issues of trust remain, but 80 million use the Internet as a primary channel for health information. Online consumers in 2004 are just as likely to use the Internet for health information as they are their personal physician.

* Recall of prescripting drug advertising flattens, but the role of the Internet expands. Consumer awareness created by pharmaceutical advertising has reached a plateau-and is decreasing in some consumer populations. However, a growing number of consumers are going directly to the product Web sites they see advertised.

* The "connected consumer" segment loses steam. Despite the promise of e-health to connect consumers with their personal physician and health plan, the link between patient, provider and payer will remain spotty at best for most consumers in 2004. However, the data does show continued strength in the link between consumers and their health plans-in part because of rapidly evolving online customer service portals from the health insurance industry.

* E-health has moved beyond patients to caregivers. Although the patient is still the focus of most targeting, understanding the impact of those beyond the patient-friends, family, and caregivers-is extremely relevant. Recent data show over half of caregivers are actively involved in discussions in the physician's office.

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