With the growing trend of direct-to-consumer insurance sales, some industry experts have questioned the future existence of the agency network. However, news from many carriers leads one to believe independent agencies aren't going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, carriers and agencies are taking steps to improve the relationship. Ease of doing business/time to market was among the top three priorities of CIOs/CTOs surveyed for Boston-based Celent's "Insurance CIO/CTO Pressures, Priorities, and Plans in 2008." Survey respondents said they are focused on getting new business in the door, servicing it efficiently and using more modern infrastructure. New business may come from independent agents and brokers, or from exclusive agents.

These channels need the right tools to bring in business. "Our agents generally ask us for simple, practical ways to make it easier and faster for them to get their work done and support our mutual clients," says Steve Yacik, e-business manager of Chubb Group of Insurance Cos., Warren, N.J. "Even small, incremental improvements that reduce tedious data entry, or more closely integrate the agency system with our system are very much appreciated by our agents."

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