Empire Life Insurance Co., Kingston, Ontario, has gone live with the first phase of a broad initiative to reduce costs using Web self-service for its group life products. Empire implemented Atlanta-based DWL Inc.'s Insurance for Group, an application that will enable more than 1,500 Empire brokers to access requests from Empire's back-end administration systems. The application also will provide real-time online sales and service functions, and will support access via wireless devices. Empire also has begun the second phase of the project, which will provide Web self-service capabilities to employer administrators. "Empire must offer self-service capabilities to our group clients to allow them to gather information, determine eligibility and ultimately to make changes to their plan data," says Jake Hilberdink, Empire's vice president, employee benefits.Zurich NA Unveils Small- Business Finance Center

The small-business unit of Schaumburg, Ill.-based Zurich North America has developed a Business Finance Center (BFC)-a customized online commercial lending marketplace for small business loans, commercial real estate loans and equipment lease financing. Provided through a strategic alliance with a provider of financing solutions on the Internet, the BFC is available to customers exclusively by referral from Zurich Small Business' national network of independent insurance agents. The BFC is a revenue-generating customer service tool that enables Zurich Small Business' agents to offer their commercial customers access to commercial financing from more than 200 lenders through a single application. Financing from $5,000 up to $500 million is available through the BFC. Lenders include banks, Wall Street firms, insurance companies, finance companies, other financial institutions and private investors.

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