STUDY SHOWS POOR USABILITY OF WEB HOME PAGESAccording to a recent study by Oak Park, Ill.-based Vox Inc., home page usability of many insurance companies isn't up to snuff. The study analyzed the positioning of key customer and user elements, such as insurance quote and "find an agent" functions. Each company was given a rating based on a set of usability and benchmark criteria. One exception to the overall findings is 21st Century Insurance Co., Woodland Hills, Calif., which recently redesigned its home page. The study, conducted in the first quarter, reviewed content and where it was positioned on the page, comparing 12 insurance providers: State Farm, Allstate, Progressive, Geico, American Family, Liberty, 21st Century, Country Financial, AIG, Nationwide, AAA Chicago and USAA.

GEORGIA BLUES PROMOTES WELLNESS THROUGH WEB

Atlanta-based Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia (BCBSGa) plans to address preventive care, health improvement and care coordination with is new benefits program, 360 Health. The program integrates care management programs and tools into a centralized resource that assists members in navigating the health care system. A key component of 360 Health is the personal health record PHR, the substance of which is owned and managed by BCBSGa members. The PHR is automatically populated by member-provided information plus claims data received by WellPoint. The program also provides access to a number of services including online wellness and lifestyle programs, discounts on health related products and alternative medicine therapies, and 24-hour access to BCBSGa associates who can provide health information.

ADOPTION AND ACCEPTANCE AGREEMENT ONLINE

Transamerica Retirement Services, a provider of Multiple Employer Plans (MEPs), has implemented online adoption and acceptance agreement capabilities. The new feature, called "AAA on the Web," is designed to simplify and streamline the process of adding new companies into an MEP by enabling both primary sponsors and adopting companies to review and accept the adoption agreement documents online. Prior to this implementation, the MEP and adopting company had to manually review the agreement. Additionally, before this online feature was made available, adopting employers into an existing MEP required the same amount of time as a traditional single-employer plan set-up. This new program can save companies time by limiting the provision approval process to only those that are unique to the adopting company. Transamerica Retirement Services is part of the AEGON Group, which is headquartered in the Netherlands.

THE HANOVER ENHANCES BILLING CAPABILITIES

The Hanover Insurance Group Inc., Worcester, Mass., took a step toward easing the process of doing business with its producers by enabling agents to accept payments for new home and auto policies via electronic check, credit card and debit card at point of sale. No transaction fees will be charged for this service. In addition to electronic payments at new business point of sale, The Hanover will roll out additional billing improvements in the coming months, including the ability for policyholders to make payments with their credit card over the telephone.

BISYS ACQUIRES TIME FINANCIAL SERVICES

Bisys, a Roseland, N.J.-based outsourcing solutions provider, acquired TIME Financial Services, Inc., a Woodland Hills, Calif.-based independent, privately-held planning and insurance consulting organization serving national financial advisory firms. This acquisition marks BISYS' expansion in the point-of-sale marketplace targeting wirehouses and broker-dealers. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. LifeSource, a Bisys company, currently provides a total outsourced insurance distribution solution through its national, multi-carrier, employee-based point-of-sale platform. It has two teams (wirehouse and property & casualty) with 38 sales personnel and leverages the national operational resources of BISYS Insurance Services.

CHOICEPOINT DEALS AIMED AT P&C OFFERINGS

Alpharetta, Ga.-based ChoicePoint acquired certain assets of Torrance, Calif.-based ePolicy Solutions Inc., including the RightRisk product line. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. ePolicy provides administration solutions for commercial insurance carriers, with products that are designed to improve "time to market" and business agility, according to the companies. ePolicy's products will be offered within ChoicePoint's Insurance Decisions suite of business process improvement products and services for property/casualty insurance sold through the company's Insurity division. Insurance Decisions incorporates processing applications onto one Web service platform, which provides effective decision support in the insurance value chain for policy, claims and reporting decisions.

DOUBLE-DIGIT GROWTH

Thanks in part to Web-based technology, Minnesota Life Group Insurance posted for the eighth consecutive year a double-digit increase in premium and policy fee income, the St. Paul company reports. The growth rate in 2005 was 14%, resulting in a compounded annual growth rate of 16% for the last three years and 18% for the last five years. Minnesota Life Group attributes its success to new business, group life account retention and its use of Web technology to customize plans for large employers.

The technology, which enables employees to manage their own group life benefits, also supports online quotations, e-mail notification of underwriting status, and a single sign-on to their employers' benefits Web site.

ERM STRATEGIC PRIORITY

Reaping business benefits now matches regulatory compliance as the key driver of enterprise risk management (ERM) systems, according to a recent global survey of 339 financial services executives. These benefits include improved performance management, better risk-based pricing, and reduced capital allocation and credit loss. A full 83% of participating financial institutions view ERM as a strategic priority, according to the study, conducted by SAS, a Cary, N.C., business intelligence technology company. Many are setting up new ERM or "integrated compliance" programs. The survey also found that credit risk management is still the top risk management expenditure priority for most firms. In addition, 78% of respondents view credit risk management as critical and anticipate significant, quantifiable economic rewards over the next 24 months, including a 10% reduction in economic capital and a 14% reduction in cost-of-credit losses.

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