Insurance Networking News (INN) and Celent honored the winners of INN's eight annual technology solution provider awards last night and recognized five insurers for innovative IT implementations during an award ceremony at the Insurance Analytics Symposium in New Orleans.

The Vanguards in Insurance Practices (VIP) award winners were determined based on a survey of insurance company executives, who were asked to name the technology firms that represent the "best of the best" in terms of the value they deliver. Insurance carriers in the United States and Canada ranked the top insurance technology providers across five separate categories.

Celent, an independent business research and advisory service with a specialization in insurance technology, helped develop the survey and facilitated data collection and analysis, in partnership with INN.

The 2014 winners by category were:

For the Insurance Core Solutions category, third place went to ISCS, second place to BenefitMall and top honors were awarded to Guidewire.

In the Customer Experience Solutions category, there were two third place award recipients, ISCS and Microsoft; Guidewire finished in second place and first place was awarded to BenefitMall.

The honorees in the Decision Support Solutions category included Microstrategy in third place, Microsoft in second and IBM in first.

For Back Office Solutions, IBM took third place, Guidewire landed second and BenefitMall nabbed the top spot.

The two winners in the Strategic Partner category were EY in second place and Cognizant in first.

Describing the significance of the awards, INN Publisher Holli Gronset said "Insurers are facing greater expectations from consumers and agents. The winners of the VIP Awards are the vendors insurance executives say they can count on to help them respond to these increased business demands.”

"The VIP program is a great way to recognize technology vendors that provide real, measurable value to their insurance customers,” added Mike Fitzgerald, a Senior Analyst in Celent's insurance practice. “Insurers tend to be very loyal to vendors that go above and beyond the norm in delivering good product and service, as seen in this year's list of preferred vendors. The survey results show customers value honesty, insurance expertise and focus on customer service."

A second set of awards presented by INN went to those insurance carriers who have done the best job of implementing solutions in the five awards categories. The winners are determined by a panel of five judges based on case studies submitted by each of the vendors recognized in the INN and Celent survey. This year’s judges included Celent’s Mike Fitzgerald, Justin Manley, CIO at Berkley Specialty Underwriting Managers, Dennis Mehmen, CIO at Grinnell Mutual, Ursuline Foley, CIO for corporate and enterprise enablement strategy at XL Group and Stuart Tainsky, CIO at Privilege Underwriters Reciprocal Exchange.

The first, second and third place winners of this year’s INN VIP Best Practices Awards were Citizens Property Insurance, National Life Group and The AssureStart Insurance Agency.

There were also two honorable mentions for this award: ProSight Specialty Insurance and CAA Insurance.

Finally, in recognition of the mounting importance of analytics for the insurance industry, four carriers were acknowledged for their excellence in this field: AssureStart, CAA, Citizens, National Life.

Summing up the overall significance of the 2014 awards, John McCormick, Editorial Director for INN and the award emcee, noted that “This year’s winners really stood out for the innovativeness of their information technology implementations.” Most importantly, he added, “Each one had a significant impact on the business.”

A special report providing an in-depth look at the winners and the business impact of their solutions will be posted to the INN news site ( later this month.

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