It has become popular among financial services experts to recognize the Internet as "just another distribution channel." Perhaps many of these same experts once believed the Internet would become the end-all, be-all communications link between businesses and consumers, but their bubble burst about the same time that the e-commerce boom came to a crashing halt.Rather than bemoan what the Internet isn't, it's more beneficial to analyze how carriers are currently using the Internet and how the Internet likely will evolve. Contrary to earlier-and popular-beliefs, the Internet will not replace the longstanding and integral relationship between agents and consumers. Although banks have been successful in driving some traffic away from their branches to their Web sites, insurance is a more complex, personal product than checking or savings accounts.

Many consumers now use the Internet to gather information about their insurance options, but a large majority still prefer to sit down with a knowledgeable professional before they commit to a particular product. In a way, the Internet is demystifying insurance, making consumers more intelligent purchasers, a benefit that is often overlooked.

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