HARTFORD TEAMS WITH TECH GROUPThe Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., Hartford, Conn., is working with the largest technology trade association in Washington State to offer policies designed for the technology industry. The insurer will market the insurance to members of the Seattle-based WSA (formerly the Washington Software Association) through brokers and independent agents. Nationwide, the Hartford insures more than 50,000 technology companies.

BUSINESS OWNERS GET FASTER QUOTES

Montgomery Insurance, a Charlotte, N.C.-based member of the Liberty Mutual Group, Boston, is passing along faster, more precise quotes with help from the Commercial IQ SmartRisk underwriting and pricing system for business owners' policies. "We're going to the company that provides the fastest and most accurate quote, and that company for us is Montgomery," says Adam Itzel, vice president of Bay Area Insurance Agency Inc., Annapolis, Md. Liberty Mutual Agency Markets' strategic business unit developed the software.

MASSMUTUAL SITE EARNS ACCOLADES

A Web site operated by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., Springfield, Mass., was judged the industry's best Internet resource for financial services professionals in six of the last nine quarters by Boston-based DALBAR'S WebMonitor. The site, called FieldNet, contains a Doing Business section that helps agents with daily work. A Reference and Learning section provides news about products, services and the industry.

GRC MARKET GROWING

Citing an increased focus on corporate governance and enterprise risk management, Forrester Research, Cambridge, Mass., has combined governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) software into one area of study.

The GRC software platform market has grown from $85 million in 2002 to $590 million today, says Forrester, which projects that it will expand to $1.3 billion by 2011. Today's GRC software platform market is fragmented and includes 64 vendors - it's ripe both for further specialization of products and consolidation of small vendors, notes the research firm.

Integrating the four capability areas that Forrester considers essential for GRC software platforms-policies/controls, assessment, analytics, and loss/investigations-requires that the platforms demonstrate four integrated areas of functionality: enterprise content management, business process management, enterprise applications, and business intelligence/business analytics.

A NATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO EDUCATE UNINSURED

While the popular press estimates 43 million U.S. citizens are uninsured, studies show the long-term or truly uninsured figure at 8 million, according to the Foundation for Health Coverage Education. More than a year and a half ago, a private citizen, Phil Lebherz, started a small nonprofit organization and launched the California Uninsured Help Line, a free call-in center for Californians seeking public health insurance coverage programs. The FHCE's original mission was to focus on the uninsured population in California. However, news about the help line and Matrix, a hand-held guide that outlines all of each state's public and private health care options for individuals and groups in almost every demographic profile and offers a reference list of phone numbers and Web sites, traveled fast. Many states began asking the FHCE for versions based on their state's options. In response to the demand, the FHCE developed a customized Matrix for every state in the nation and provided each state's organization of insurance professionals with a beginning supply. The Help Line expanded to nationwide with a public service campaign to help the government do a better job of educating the uninsured about public programs that are "on the books" but underutilized, according to FHCE. To find more information about the program, visit www.coverageforall.org.

EUROPEAN INSURERS MISSING THE ROI MARK

While insurers continue to embrace the use of return on investment (ROI) to measure IT project success and failure, many do not meet their own targets. Only 11% achieve their ROI objectives, according to new research.

The findings are part of a survey undertaken by research firm Datamonitor and commissioned by SunGard iWORKS, both based in London. In-depth interviews with 100 European insurers indicate that insurers, driven by concerns around cost, are seeking increasingly sophisticated means to assess IT projects prior to initiation. More than 90% of insurers claim to use ROI measurements to justify IT projects, according to the research.

The survey also found that more than half (54%) of the respondents aim to achieve returns within 18 months. In the general European insurance sector, 92% of institutions seek ROI within two years, while 79% of life insurers, companies that also have to deal with the higher complexity of life insurance legacy systems, look for the same return period.

FISERV ACQUIRES INSUREWORX

Fiserv Inc., based in Brookfield, Wis., acquired InsureWorx, a provider of core processing software solutions for workers' compensation, commercial P&C and risk administration organizations. InsureWorx, headquartered in Oakland, Calif., will become part of Fiserv Insurance Solutions, which will provide technology solutions and professional services to more than 60 of the largest workers' compensation carriers and state funds in North America. Gary Sherne, CEO of InsureWorx, will assume the role of president of Fiserv's P&C solutions operation, leading an organization of more than 600 insurance technology professionals. InsureWorx realized $43 million in revenues in 2005.

CARRIERS NOT SATISFIED WITH DISABILITY CLAIMS SYSTEMS

A recent study, conducted by JHA, a Portland, Maine-based disability reinsurance, consulting and research firm, measured insurance industry challenges as well as how technology can assist disability carriers in successfully managing claims operations. Results showed that carriers are dissatisfied with their current claims management technology. The study, sponsored by Portland, Maine-based ClaimVantage Inc., indicates that companies across the industry face similar challenges managing their claims processes, largely due to rapid advancements in technology. Some of the major issues identified involve claims payment solutions, customized or over-engineered systems and image-enabled systems. Seventy percent of the respondents have semi-automated payment capabilities, while the remaining are fully automated on legacy systems with up to 20 years of in-house development built in. Nearly 80% of the respondents said their systems are difficult to maintain because they are highly customized vendor systems or over-engineered legacy systems. Paperless environments are rated high on carriers' wish lists, with only 41% using image-enabled systems. Of those, only 50% are individual disability carriers. Of the respondents, nearly half (46%) indicated lower productivity levels or dissatisfaction with their current claims management technology.

CHOICEPOINT ACQUIRES STEEL CARD

ChoicePoint acquired Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Steel Card LLC and its Apogee product line. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Steel Card provides Web-based personal lines software for the P&C industry. The software includes capabilities that span the policy administration lifecycle, such as rating, rules, forms, Internet quoting, Internet purchasing and full policy processing for all personal lines. Steel Card and its products will be integrated into ChoicePoint's insurance software and process outsourcing business, Insurity, based in Hartford, Conn. These new capabilities will be marketed as part of Insurity's Insurance Decisions suite.

P&C CARRIERS TO SEE PROFIT IN UNDERWRITING

U.S. property/casualty carriers can expect another year of underwriting profit in 2006, matching the results of 2004, according to a Conning Research and Consulting Inc. forecast report. "Analysis of 2005 results for the industry shows a remarkable consistency in profitability by line of business, aside from the effects of catastrophes," says Stephan Christiansen, director of research at Hartford, Conn.-based Conning. "Profitability continues through 2006, but slowing premium growth, rising loss costs and accumulating surplus will take their toll, and the industry will again show combined ratios above 100% in 2007 and 2008." The study, "Property-Casualty Forecast & Analysis by Line of Insurance, 2005-2008," reports on 2005 preliminary results for the industry and forecasts results for the P&C industry and its top lines of business through 2008. "Market conditions are becoming more price-competitive outside of catastrophe-prone areas, but with some volatility. This is stimulated by surplus accumulation, strong loss reserves and strong cash flow. The projection also reflects an expectation for heightened catastrophe losses, but below the levels seen in 2004 and 2005," says Christiansen. "Increased pricing for coastal exposures, and higher costs and reduced availability of reinsurance are helping to moderate these premium trends through 2008. Overall, we expect ROEs will slowly subside, falling from 9.2% in 2005 to 7% by 2008."

WHAT AGENT'S WANT

Carriers may know that technology is a critical enabler in meeting agents' needs, but do they know exactly what agents need when it comes to that technology? What tools do agents have access to, and how often do they use them? How do agents view the debate between proprietary systems such as portals and non-proprietary systems such as agency management systems? In a perfect world, what would field technology look like, and how would it function? Boston-based Celent LLC posed these and other questions to a number of life/annuity/health agents and agency principals. A total of 215 people, ranging from captive to independent to general agents participated in the survey, which contributed to Celent's June 2006 report, "Designed for Success: The Must-Have Attributes of Producer Tools."

Key findings in the report include the fact that agents are split on which tools they prefer to use for various tasks, and no single-tool strategy will universally appeal to agents. Also revealed in the report: Among a list of 13 attributes, agents identified a clear top tier of attributes that help them determine which carrier might best meet their needs-e-mail, 24/7 access and use of the Web are primary concerns for all agents.

The report prompted Celent to conclude that on a high level, access to information is a key theme; communication tools that fit daily work patterns are critical; and efficiency is a major concern, but not the only one.

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