It’s a given that the strains of the financial crisis have been felt by insurers involved in almost all lines of business. Like many industries, this strain has played out downstream, with policyholders mindful and concerned about the ebb and flow of mergers and acquisitions, insurance carriers and agents that go out of business, and more.

"Reputation and customer security is at stake, so it's especially important for insurance agencies to be organized and efficient in 2010," said Maryellen Waggoner, Executive Director of the National Insurance Producer Registry (NIPR). "Being vigilant about regulatory and licensing responsibilities internally ultimately affects the quality of customer experiences and protection policyholders receive from their agents. It will also help agents retain and build their customer base after a tough year."

NIPR, a non-profit organization that works with agents, companies and regulators to facilitate the exchange of insurance licensing and reporting information, believes the key to restoring consumer trust in the insurance industry lies with increased transparency through technological developments and more uniformity in industry standards.

Although the end consumer may not be aware of the regulatory requirements involved in keeping an insurance company operating and reporting lawfully, insurers, nonetheless, continue to battle the time-consuming tasks of licensing and regulatory tasks.

NIPR believes that advanced digital tools may be cutting down on the red tape associated with these processes and making it more efficient and cost-effective for agents to file required paperwork.

"We know more people are conducting business online; this past year we've seen a 114% increase in traffic on our own Web site," said Waggoner. "Not only is it apparent that technologically advanced tools are making a difference in the insurance industry, but we expect agents to demand additional digital capabilities in 2010 to cut down further on costs and complications."

While digitizing industry tools is an integral part of restoring faith in the industry, creating consistent industry standards and universal tools is equally important, notes NIPR.

"As an industry, we have to work together and adopt more universal practices in order to improve our business," said Waggoner. "Insurance producers and companies need an infrastructure that allows for efficient and timely compliance with state licensing, renewal and appointment requirements."

Centralizing databases and tools and making more uniform reporting systems will not only make it easier for agents to meet reporting requirements, but also for regulators to keep an accurate pulse on the industry and protect consumers.

As part of a continual effort to create a one-stop shop for submitting regulatory required documents online, NIPR is committed to increasing the number of jurisdictions that participate in the system as well as partnering to harmonize more processes.

In order to do this, NIPR occasionally partners with other groups to harmonize data. Recently, NIPR signed an agreement with the Association for Cooperative Operations Research and Development (ACORD) to fuse specific NIPR processes with existing ACORD Messaging Library data and message definitions in a major move toward improving the producer licensing and appointment processes.

"Centralized industry standards will be key in 2010 for keeping our industry healthy and efficient, ultimately restoring faith among our customers," said Waggoner.



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