Insurers' growth strategies largely are based on their ability to sell more policies; competitive pricing, quicker time to market, effective marketing and new product development are common tactics to achieve that goal.For carriers like Fireman's Fund Insurance Co. that rely on a network of independent agencies, there's the added dimension of improving agent loyalty: Agents are known to steer their business to insurers that are easiest to work with. That's why the Novato, Calif.-based carrier in 2004 implemented a multi-year plan, dubbed Enterprise Partner Integration Program, which is the centerpiece of Fireman's desire to align its IT infrastructure to support more than 3,000 agents working at 59 offices in 26 states.

As a first step, Fireman's Fund established agent "model offices" to gain a better understanding of the flow of information between agency management systems and the carrier's back-office systems, and identify rough spots in agents' workflow.

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