Insurers name e-signatures and online applications; document management, workflow and imaging; and Web self-service for distributors and/or customers (portals) as the technology strategies they are very likely or likely to implement, according to a survey from Dallas-based Robert E. Nolan Co.The "Life & Annuity Industry Survey Findings" report says, "While e-signatures and online applications are likely to represent the largest investment, the electronic delivery of customer materials in support of the online purchase ranks somewhat lower.

Trailing close behind the aforementioned technologies were technologies that attempt to simplify the core processes involved in issuing insurance and paying agents: common consolidated front-ends (simple multi-product entry) and consolidated commission systems with accelerated electronic payment.

The report concludes that technology remains an important strategic enabler to business growth and profitability. Insurers have a desire to extend into the world of Web-based services, electronic data collection and electronic delivery as more companies incorporate these features.

Utilizing service as a competitive advantage to offset the convergence of product features and pricing stands out as one of the differentiators of forward-thinking companies, with almost unanimous respondent agreement that speed of service will be a strategic imperative. Timeliness was followed by the need for access methods from phone, Web, e-mail and voice response to traditional written requests.

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