Citizens and Hanover Launch The Agency PlaceThe Citizens and Hanover Insurance Cos. have launched The Agency Place, a Web-based agency portal that provides the companies' network of independent agents with centralized access to information and tools they need to conduct efficiently and simply. The Agency Place not only provides quicker access to information and faster transaction processing, it also provides agents with easy access to detailed billing, claims, customer and policy information. Agents also have access to an extensive library of online documents, forms, manuals and other resource. Citizens Insurance Co. of America, Howell, Mich., and The Hanover Insurance Co., Worcester, Mass., are members of the Allmerica Financial companies, a group of insurers led by Allmerica Financial Corp.

Gateway Joins RiskProNet

Gateway Insurance Agency, a regional insurance agency based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., recently joined RiskProNet International, a network of 29 major independent brokers across the United States and Canada. Gateway offers personal and commercial lines policies, with emphasis on manufacturing, construction, real estate, wholesale distribution, retail, condominiums and homeowners associations, and tourist-related businesses. RiskProNet, which is based in Menlo Park, Calif., enables members to share their risk assessment knowledge via a secure Web site.

N.Y. Creates Drug-Price Site

New York State in August launched an interactive Web site to enable New Yorkers comparison shop for prescription drugs, following a statewide survey showing widely varying prices at pharmacies. New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said the site is the first of its kind in the nation. "By posting the prices of common prescription drugs at pharmacies across the state on our new Web site, we hope to make it easier for all consumers to comparison shop and keep their costs as low as possible," Spitzer said.

MetLife Host E-Business Conference

New York-based MetLife and Babson College held an inaugural eBusiness Thought Leadership Conference, at Babson's Business Executive Conference Center, in Boston, Mass.. The conference brought together key players in strategy, information technology and marketing to discuss innovative practices for using technology to retain and attract customers. "MetLife is pleased to join Babson College to host thought leaders from a range of industries to discuss important eBusiness issues faced by many companies. This type of intellectual summit reinforces the importance of on-going dialogue, as technology continues to play an increasingly larger role in retaining and attracting customers," said Sachin Shah, Vice President, eBusiness at MetLife.

Internet ASP Service Offers Advice

Fremont, Calif.-based AdviceAmerica Inc. has released an ASP (hosted) wealth planning service for independent financial advisors available for subscription at The AdvisorVision ASP provides needs analysis and automatically generate actionable advice. The company claims the system helps financial advisors to quickly develop a comprehensive plan with investment, retirement, education funding, insurance, estate and debt planning in one holistic view.

MS/B Reports Online Valuations Increases

Insurance companies and their agents are now adopting Web-hosted estimating platforms and technologies more than any other automation medium to determine insurable values, according to Marshall & Swift/Boeckh (MS/B). At the end of the second quarter, MS/B, which is based in New Berlin, Wis., reported the number of residential and commercial records processed through MS/B Express Web-hosted sites exceeded 10 million. MS/B now hosts 120 secure sites where over 150,000 users access replacement cost calculators for residential and commercial property estimating, including estimators for multiple- and single- family dwellings, high-value homes, condominiums, mobile-manufactured housing, commercial and agricultural buildings, and business contents and inventory.

Orchestria Helps Eliminate Irrelevant E-mail

Between one-third and one-half of all electronic communications kept in company storage devices are irrelevant to the business and don't need to be there, according to Orchestria, a New York-based provider of real-time visibility and control solutions for e-mail, the Web, instant messaging and BlackBerry handhelds. The company in August launched a "return on investment" analysis service that enables large enterprises to accurately calculate how much it is costing to store irrelevant communications and how much they could save by installing better policy management software to properly determine retention periods and storage destination according to message content.

ING Enhances Online Services For Employers

ING Group recently made enhancements to its online services for employer groups, including online reports, online documents, online evidence of insurability and online billing for self-accounting customers. Executives at the Netherlands-based financial services firm say the enhancements offer a number of benefits to customers, including convenience, flexibility and ease of administration. Most services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing greater access to current and timely information. "We are addressing the requirements of our customers in the marketplace with these enhancements," said Curt Olson, head of sales, ING Employee Benefits. "We believe we are helping customers increase their efficiency, flexibility and ease of administration in the management of their employee benefits program, which will help them provide better service to their employees."

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