STRATEGIC GOALS GUIDE IT SPENDINGSenior insurance IT executives are making strategic investments, but budgets and staff size are generally flat or growing only modestly.
Those were among the findings reported by Boston-based Celent LLC in a study called "Insurance CIO/CTO Pressures, Priorities, Projects and Plans for 2007 Survey Results."
Matthew Josefowicz, manager of Celent's insurance group and author of the report sees continued focus on meeting demand for speed to market and ease of doing business, and on projects involving core systems, data mastery and distribution.
Areas of significant new project spending vary by size and sector, but include initiatives in underwriting, claims, product development and data mastery, the report says. Common areas of significant new product spending include document handling, policy administration system replacement, ACORD XML adoption, agent portals and BPM.
GLOBAL COMPANY TO TAKE UP SLACK IN CAT INSURANCE
Ironshore Inc. reports raising more than $1 billion through a private placement of equity securities to begin underwriting specialty lines of insurance through a Bermuda-based insurance subsidiary, Ironshore Insurance Ltd.
The new global insurance company was created in response to conditions in the U.S. property catastrophe insurance markets that resulted from harsh recent hurricane seasons that made coverage capital intensive and costly, Ironshore says.
RESEARCHER: GLBA HAS LITTLE EFFECT
The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) has not created significant synergies between commercial banking, investment banking, merchant banking and insurance activities, according to a finance researcher at the University of Arkansas. The law also has had little effect on bank profitability and productivity.
"Banking stakeholders expected big changes from the GLBA," says Tim Yeager, an associate professor of finance at the Fayetteville, Ark.-based university and the Arkansas Bankers Association chair at the university's Sam M. Walton College of Business. "But despite these high expectations, gains from combining commercial banking and other financial services are small or had already been exploited."
He discovered that after the act's passage, many banks became financial holding companies in name but had not significantly expanded into the newly permissible activities.
They still derived most of their earnings from traditional banking activities, such as loan making and deposit taking.
Yeager found only minor synergies among commercial banking, insurance activities and merchant banking.
TECH PREPAREDNESS CAN HELP TAME REGULATORY ISSUES
Carriers need to step up their technology preparedness to get ready for industry-altering regulatory issues, according to new research from TowerGroup.
The issues-a proposed national catastrophe fund, a possible extension of the Terrorist Risk Insurance Act and an optional federal charter-made headlines but went unresolved in 2006.
Any of the three could profoundly change the IT function in the insurance business, according to a TowerGroup research note titled, "2007 US Insurance Regulatory Agenda: Déjà vu All Over Again," by Karen Pauli, a senior analyst in the Insurance Practice at the Needham, Mass.-based TowerGroup consulting and research firm.
AIIM TO RECEIVE PDF STANDARD
Adobe Systems Inc., San Jose, Calif., plans to release the full Portable Document Format (PDF) 1.7 specification to AIIM, the Silver Spring, Md., Enterprise Content Management Association, for publication by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), Geneva, Switzerland.
PDF has become a de facto global standard for information exchange since Adobe published the complete PDF specification in 1993. Both government and private industry now rely on PDF for volumes of electronic records that need to be more securely and reliably shared, managed, and in some cases preserved for generations, observers say.
Since 1995 Adobe has participated in working groups that develop technical specifications for publication by ISO and worked within the ISO process to deliver specialized subsets of PDF as standards for specific industries and functions. Today, PDF for Archive (PDF/A) and PDF for Exchange (PDF/X) are ISO standards, and PDF for Healthcare (PDF/H) is an AIIM-proposed Best Practice Guide.
Adobe says it will release the full PDF 1.7 specification as defined in the PDF Reference Manual available at www.adobe.com/devnet/pdf/pdf_reference.html to AIIM for submission to ISO.
AETNA OFFERS HEALTH CARE CREDIT CARD
Aetna and Bank of America developed the Aetna Healthy Living credit card for Aetna's members.
Cardholders earn points when they use the rewards-based card and core bonus points for using the card for medical expenses.
Cardholders can redeem points to help cover medical co-payments made with the card or they can exchange points for cash to pay for health care. The also can have the value of the points posted to a checking account or a health savings account.
'HEALTH & MONEY' IS NEW SECTION ON CIGNA SITE
The redesigned Web site of Philadelphia-based CIGNA Healthcare Corp. provides more health information and easier navigation than the old version, says the company.
The site's new "Health & Money" section offers health care financial planning tips, while also providing articles on staying healthy, coping with unexpected health care events and managing chronic conditions.
Interactive tools help estimate health risk factors, identify steps to improved health and calculate contributions to health savings account and flexible spending accounts.
SOCIETY OF FSP EXPANDS ELIGIBILITY FOR MEMBERSHIP
The Society of Financial Service Professionals (FSP) expanded membership eligibility criteria to include two designations: Enrolled Actuaries (EA) and Certified Pension Consultants (CPC).
"By expanding our eligibility criteria, we create new opportunities for our members to create profitable professional alliances with their fellow members," says Rich Linsday, president of the society.
Five criteria were used to evaluate designations in the pension and actuarial fields:
* The designation or degree must be awarded by a credible institution or examining body as a designation or degree.
* The credential is awarded after successful completion of an examination or series of examinations designed to measure mastery of a body of knowledge.
* Attainment of the credential should be subject to a minimum experience requirement appropriate to the field of expertise.
* The individual earning the credential should have a continuing commitment to advanced education.
* Earning the credential should require adherence to a professional Code of Ethics.
Those currently pursuing the EA and CPC designations are eligible for associate membership.
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