IBM ACQUIRES LASIBM Corp., New York, will acquire Language Analysis Systems Inc. (LAS), a privately held company based in Herndon, Va., that develops multicultural name recognition technology. LAS technology is designed to allow organizations to increase business insight by enabling a precise, real-time view into the linguistic and cultural properties of names and facilitates a range of solutions. LAS technology verifies the origin, cultural variations and meaning of names by comparing and analyzing factors commonly associated with nearly one billion names from around the world, including nicknames, titles, format changes and typographical errors. IBM hopes to combine the LAS technology with its existing identity resolution software to verify the names and identities of fraudulent individuals.

REPORT SHOWS SAAS ADOPTION

A new Gartner Inc. research report, "Adoption of Software-as-a-Service Is Happening Outside of CRM" analyzes the emergence of the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model and its widespread adoption in new industries including compliance management, which Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner states is currently the second largest market for SaaS solutions. The report, available at www.axentis.com introduces several key findings including:

* "Governance, risk and compliance legislation-and perhaps more importantly, interpretations of exactly what governance, risk and compliance legislation requires-is making traditional (such as project-focused) approaches less able to cope with the ongoing challenges that governance, risk and compliance pose."

* "Compliance management has become an imperative for every enterprise in the ongoing wake of the Enron scandal."

* "The SaaS model is a good fit for the changing requirements of business compliance. Consequently, this overlooked software category has quickly emerged as one of the most important in SaaS."

STUDY: JUST HOW COSTLY IS OBESITY?

A study published in the March 2006 Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine finds obesity is responsible for 2.1% of all (diagnosed) medical claims dollars for males and 2.8% for female employees. The study also broke down findings by business sector:

* Highest obesity-related costs (from employees and their dependents) in healthcare sector.

* Lowest cost (from employees and their dependents) in finance/consulting sectors. However these differences (according to the researchers) may be as much an issue of benefit plan design as health status differences.

According to the study, "healthcare sector members have greater access to care; financial/consulting sector members are more educated on average, which is a predictor of lower obesity rates."

SELECTIVE APPOINTS SENIOR EXECUTIVE

Richard F. Connell, has been appointed to senior executive vice president and chief information officer of Selective Insurance Group Inc., and its subsidiary, Selective Insurance Company of America, both of Branchville, N.J. Connell is responsible for Selective's technology strategy, automation system development and e-business technology, data processing operations, and voice and data communications.

Connell joined Selective in August 2000 as executive vice president and chief information officer. Previously, he was chief technology officer for Boston-based Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. He has been active in industry groups, including the National Electronic Information Corporation, Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange, Society for Information Management and LOMA.

SUNGARD ACQUIRES DATAWARE

SunGard Data Systems Inc., Wayne, Pa., has acquired Dataware Solutions, Inc., a provider of automated personal trading, code of ethics and employee compliance solutions for financial institutions. Dataware Solutions will become part of SunGard's Protegent compliance, surveillance and suitability solutions business.

NEW CIO TO LEAD FIREMAN'S FUND

Oliver Bussman is Fireman's Fund Insurance Co.'s new chief information officer (CIO), according to Charles Kavitsky, chief executive officer. Bussman has many years of IT leadership experience in the banking, insurance and asset management industries. He will lead the implementation and delivery of the significant IT investment Novato, Calif.-based Fireman's Fund has made to improve its customer and employee experience and to its operational effectiveness. Most recently, Bussman served with Allianz Group, of which Fireman's Fund is a wholly owned subsidiary. He comes from Allianz Germany where he was responsible for global IT strategy, infrastructure, business applications, standardization and IT purchasing.

90% of CARRIERS USE WEB SERVICES

A recent survey of top P&C and L&A insurance carriers reveals that 90% of carriers have adopted some form of Web services within their information technology architecture, and 58% of those have adopted the industry-specific ACORD XML standards as part of their Web Services initiatives; 76% of the survey respondents are using or plan to use the ACORD standard. The survey, from Pittsburgh-based SEEC Inc., also showed that carriers are looking to decrease IT costs through the adoption of Web Services and ACORD XML. However, while IT cost reduction is a major benefit, the leading motivators appear to be enhancing agility and improving service. Survey respondents also expected improved ability to adapt systems, improved service delivery to agents and reduced application integration costs.

E-HEALTH RECORDS COULD POSE SECURITY THREAT

The March 2006 issue of Consumer Reports magazine, published by Yonkers, N.Y.-based Consumers Union of US Inc., found that while a national system of Electronic Health Records (EHRs) being developed by the federal government states, HMOs and PPOs to link the medical records of every American could save lives and billions of dollars in health-care spending, it may also jeopardize the security of personal health care information. Consumer Reports found that in absence of safeguards, marketers could use electronic medical records to sell patients new drugs to treat their illnesses; fund-raisers could target those newly diagnosed of a disease and encourage them to contribute to their cause. Lenders and employers could also use such information to disqualify people with health problems from obtaining loans and jobs.

The Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel, the agency the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services put in charge of setting standards for exchange of information over the new electronic medical records network, insists that security will be tight. But recent large-scale thefts of credit card and banking information have shown that all databases, even those with state-of-the-art security protections, can be compromised.

Why the RECENT EXTREME WEATHER PATTERNS?

According to Chicago-based Aon Corp.'s Impact Forecasting, it was a year with more storms in the Atlantic than any other on record, and it was also the costliest hurricane season ever. A new Aon report reveals some of the possible reasons for the activity-including shifts in the frequency of storms and the impact of El Nino-behind a year that produced more Category 5 hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin than any other. The report, "Atlantic Ocean Basin Hurricane Frequency Shift," available at www.aon.com, shows evidence of more frequent storms as part of an ongoing cycle of worldwide weather patterns.

THE HARTFORD WINS IT AWARD

The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., Hartford, Conn., won the 2006 Annual CIO magazine Enterprise Value Award in the insurance category. The honor is presented to companies in a range of major industries that demonstrate their innovative use of information technology to further business goals. The Hartford received the award for implementing ICON 2.0, an electronic quoting and submission system designed to help agencies and their front line representatives streamline the process of placing small business insurance with The Hartford. The Hartford introduced ICON 2.0 in early 2004 and continues to improve it. Most recently, The Hartford added a new feature that generates immediate and accurate pricing which, in turn, enables agents to quote and submit new business faster. ICON 2.0 is accessed through the company's Electronic Business Center, an intranet site dedicated exclusively to agents that represent The Hartford.

FLORIDA CREDIT RULE CHALLENGED BY AIA

An approval of a rule governing insurers' use of credit-based insurance scores could threaten the use of credit information in underwriting and rating Florida homeowners and auto insurance policies, according to the Washington-based American Insurance Association (AIA). The rule, proposed by Florida Department of Financial Services' Office of Insurance Regulation, based in Tallahassee, Fla., will require insurers to demonstrate that there is no "disproportionate effect" on consumers when credit information is used in underwriting and rating. AIA believes the ruling will hurt insurance consumers.

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