The insurance industry has endured the reputation of a technological straggler in the rapidly evolving world of financial services. Marked by a general propensity to avoid risk and an ambivalence about new technology, many experts believe that insurers have fallen behind banks and securities firms in the race to become the dominant financial services provider.However, prodded by cutthroat competition from carriers and the threat of new competitors outside of the industry, insurers understand that new technology is a competitive necessity. And while insurers have shown they're not afraid to dip into their corporate wallets to spend more on technology, determining exactly how and where those dollars can be most effectively spent continues to be a problem that's plaguing many insurers.
What's clear is that insurers are investing in Web-related hardware and software that will enable them to conduct business with their agents and customers online. Linked to these investments is increased spending on customer service and business intelligence technologies that respond to how agents and customers, rather than insurers, want to do business. To accomplish this, insurers are revamping their legacy systems, building intranets and extranets, employing new programming languages and extending their operations to include electronic rating, billing and claims handling.
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