Seattle-based Safeco Corp. has named William Jenks chief information officer. Jenks most recently served as executive vice president and chief information officer of worldwide operations at Publicis Groupe, one of the world's largest advertising and media companies. At Publicis, Jenks led the consolidation of separate technology platforms following a major corporate acquisition. He also realigned the company's technical resources to support top-line business objectives and improve the efficiency of its global workforce. Before joining Publicis, Jenks was chief information officer at Space Systems/Loral, Heller Financial, Inc., and at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. "Bill has an outstanding track record of leading transformational change with regard to technology infrastructure," says Paula Rosput Reynolds, Safeco president and chief executive officer. "His experience working in time-critical, high-transaction environments, combined with his proven hands-on leadership, will help us achieve our stated goals of becoming a low-cost and logistically outstanding carrier." Jenks replaces Yom Senegor who has announced his resignation from Safeco. Senegor joined Safeco in 2001 from Accenture where he led the insurance practice area.


Last year was a turning point for cyber attacks. It was the year when the predominant threats on the Internet transitioned from being perpetrated by hobbyist hackers to criminals.

This is according to a recent report issued by Counterpane Internet Security Inc., a Mountain View, Calif.-based provider of network protection services, and MessageLabs Ltd., a provider of messaging security with regional headquarters in New York City.

"Security threats have rapidly evolved," says Bruce Schneier, founder and chief technology officer of Counterpane. "In just 12 months, cyber-criminals have moved away from deploying large-scale generalized attacks ... toward carefully engineered attacks calculated for precise outcomes." This approach is epitomized by 2005's epidemic of identity theft and financial fraud, he says.

In 2005, the financial services sector received the most Trojan attacks and the most probes/enumeration attacks at close to 40% and 30% worldwide, respectively. What's more, the insurance/real estate sector received the highest rate of direct hacker attacks at 25%, and the second highest rate of spyware attacks at 29.5%.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation in its 2005 Computer Crime Survey estimates the financial loss suffered by an organization due to a Trojan virus or worm to be at least $38,000 per incident, according to the report.

As for the average loss suffered by an organization due to financial fraud, the FBI survey estimates $13,000 per incident, with large institutions more likely to be attacked more often.

Cyber attacks will cause greater damage to companies in the coming years, warns Schneier. "We estimate that some malware with a modest infection rate could cost a small company $83,000 a year," he says. For larger companies, with a deeper infection, the cost could be as high as $1 million or more.


The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., Hartford, Conn., has named Mark Esposito as chief information officer for its individual life division. Esposito, who is also vice president and director of business technology, will lead the division's project management office and technology initiatives. He will be a member of the senior planning group, which helps Executive Vice President Michael Kalen, director of individual life, set direction for the division. "The pace of technological change-and its impact on how life insurers do business-will continue to accelerate in the future," he says. "With Mark's help, The Hartford will keep its foot on the technology accelerator and, ultimately, stay out in front of the competition." Esposito joins The Hartford after spending more than 20 years with Phoenix Life; most recently as vice president, information technology of the insurer's individual life and annuity business.


The board of directors of Computer Sciences Corp., El Segundo, Calif., is exploring strategic alternatives to enhance shareholder value, including a potential sale of the company. The company has retained Goldman, Sachs & Co. as its financial adviser in this process. CSC cautions that there can be no assurance the exploration of strategic alternatives will result in a transaction, and the company does not intend to disclose developments regarding its exploration unless and until the board approves a specific transaction. CSC is also implementing a restructuring program, which is expected to significantly improve future cash flow and earnings.

The restructuring involves workforce reductions of approximately 4,300 employees during fiscal 2007, which began April 1, 2006, and approximately 700 employees in fiscal 2008. A majority of these reductions will occur in Europe, but plans will vary by country based on local legal requirements and consultation with works councils and employee representatives.


The Progressive Group of Insurance Cos. has opened its first permanent catastrophe response center in Mayfield Heights, Ohio, which, according to the company, will even better position it to provide its 24/7 claims service. Progressive's permanent national catastrophe response team (NCRT) is made up of an "inside" operations team and an "outside" field response team, both consisting of full-time claims representatives from throughout the United States who either serve in this capacity on a regular basis or have signed up for "CAT duty." Based on the forecasted number and types of claims resulting from a particular weather-related event, the appropriate number of reps are deployed to a storm-stricken area or to the new CAT Response Center. The Response Center can accommodate up to 400 reps.


The special investigative unit (SIU) of Andover, Mass.-based CGI Group Inc. (CGI) completed a probe it was conducting for the Clarendon National Insurance Co. that resulted in the arrest of four California residents. Six felony charges were lodged in connection with a fraudulent auto theft claim that was filed with Clarendon.


The widely accepted forecast of more frequent and severe hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico for the next decade is increasing the importance that insurers, reinsurers, corporations and government entities are placing on catastrophic risk models, according to Rick Clinton, president, EQECAT, Inc., Oakland, Calif. Clinton disputes comments that risk models in general are neither sophisticated nor accurate enough. EQECAT is upgrading its hurricane modeling capabilities, and the company is nearing completion of plans for the release of other optimized modeling capabilities designed to deal with several perils, including flood and earthquakes, as well as to measure the impact of perils on the offshore energy industry.

MBI TO PROVIDE CIGNA'S FSA CARDWaltham, Mass.-based MBI Benefits Inc. will provide the national debit card for Philadelphia-based CIGNA HealthCare's flexible spending accounts (FSAs). The MBI Benefits Card is designed to provide CIGNA's FSA participants with electronic access to their FSA funds for accounts beginning in 2006. CIGNA chose MBI based on its ability to tailor a debit card product with proven technology that provides its customers with electronic access to FSA funds.


The International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences, New York, listed the nominees for Best Insurance Site in The Tenth Annual Webby Awards. They are:

* Westfield Insurance


* Blue Shield of California

* Life Insurance Corporation of India

* Now What?

The Webby Awards is an international award program for Web sites and the innovators behind them. The Academy unveils nominees in more than 65 categories, and people around the world to vote for their favorite Web sites.


Two U.S. surveys of P&C insurance customers - conducted for El Segundo, Calif.-based Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) by Columbia, S.C.-based MarketSearch Corp.-indicate a large, untapped opportunity for cost control through electronic billing. A survey of car and homeowner insurance billing methods found that 88% of auto insurance customers and 93% of homeowner insurance customers still receive bills by mail. Yet, 73% of respondents indicated they would be willing to pay their insurance bills using the Internet. A second survey of approximately 350 P&C professionals at CSC's Connect 2005 conference on their own personal insurance experience confirmed these findings.


Financial institutions that make online retirement tools readily available can increase consumer retirement account participation and action. That's the conclusion of a study conducted by Boston-based Compete Inc., a market research firm, with MSN and Media Contacts. The study, titled "Consumer Adoption of Online Retirement Planning Tools," revealed that every month an average of 180,000 consumers use online retirement tools, and consumers who are aware of the availability of online retirement tools and use them are more likely to take action, according to Mike Bailey, Compete's managing director, financial services practice.

Other findings:

* Nearly three out of four users indicate that use of an online retirement tool impacted their strategy; 64% changed allocations among investments, and generations "X" and "Y" were more likely to increase the amount contributed to their 401K.

* Consumers who use retirement tools are twice as likely to interact with online lead forms and five times as likely to initiate a new account opening online.

* Baby boomers comprise the largest segment of online tool users in total volume, while seniors represent the generation most likely to be tool users. Retirement planning for generations "X" and "Y" isn't a "top-of-mind issue."


According to a recent report on consumer behavior in financial services from Chicago-based Mintel International Group Ltd., consumers are increasingly inundated by offerings from financial institutions. The availability of diverse options provides consumers with more choices, but it also presents the potential for overload. For instance, last year consumers received more than 21.5 billion direct mail offers promoting financial services, according to Mintel. This is a 20% jump from 2004, when consumers received more than 17.9 billion direct mail offers for banking, credit cards, insurance, investment, and mortgage and loan programs. According to the report, consumers are dealing with "information overload" by limiting their choices to familiar companies and products and by focusing on single aspects of offers, such as introductory rates or monthly payments.

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