BANKS SHOULD SET SIGHTS ON RELATIONSTo entice customers to buy more financial products and services, financial services companies need to focus on improving their relationship strategies, according to Gartner Inc., a research firm headquartered in Stamford, Conn.

Gartner's consumer research finds that, while customers may express interest in a deeper relationship, the most desirable customers increasingly "cherry-pick" financial products and services from a global supplier community.

"Customers want to create their own personalized and holistic product set. They do not want to be forced to accept only those products that financial firms want to sell. They want useful products, good rates, easy access and quick answers to their questions and problems," says Stessa Cohen, research director for Gartner's Financial Services research team.

Gartner recommends that CIOs of financial services firms support customer desires for flexibility and a variety of delivery mechanism through rich, easy-to-use functions and interfaces.

Firms also need to improve their credibility by solving problems on time, every time and at every channel-and reward staff on that basis. Finally, says the report, financial services firms must deploy technology that delivers mass customization at the individual level.


The Service Quality Measurement Group Inc. (SQM), Vernon, British Columbia, has recognized Jackson National Life Insurance Co., Lansing, Mich., as a world class service provider in its latest benchmarking study of North American contact centers. This is the third time in the last four years that Jackson has achieved world class status-the company earned its first service award from SQM in 2004. Historically, only 5% of contact centers receive the world class designation. SQM benchmarks more than 250 North American contact centers annually, resulting in one of the largest customer survey databases. To achieve a world class designation, at least 80% of customers surveyed must rate their experience with a company's contact center as "very satisfied"-the highest possible rating. Jackson received the "very satisfied" rating from 84% of the approximately 800 individuals who participated in this year's survey. SQM has evaluated customer satisfaction for the contact center industry since 1998. Customer satisfaction is evaluated by selecting a random sample of calls and surveying customers within 72 hours of their call to a company's contact center.


The Professional Insurance Agents of New York State, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Hampshire unveiled their updated PIA Technology Info Central, providing members with access to technology news, real-time initiatives, vendors and consumer information for their Web sites and more. The PIA Web site ( also has been updated to include more real-time vendors.

PIA members can access real-time implementation options; keep current with the latest technology news; obtain materials to assist in creating and updating their agency Web sites; learn about PIA's featured technology consultant of the month; view daily anti-virus alerts, user group information as well as overall industry technology efforts; and more.


NetEconomy, a provider of financial crime management and compliance solutions headquartered in The Hague, announced the launch of NetPractice, a best-practice NetEconomy user community for connecting ideas, strategies and techniques to help its members excel in the detection and prevention of the growing problem of financial crime. Initial membership will be free in NetPractice, a members-only NetEconomy networking initiative. Members may connect with their peers, including anti-money laundering analysts, fraud investigators and industry experts, via the NetPractice portal.

Users can also access resources, training and best-practice information on compliance and financial crime management strategies. Additionally, NetPractice offers a rewards and recognition program where members can earn NetCredits for free on-site training and workshops by contributing experience and expertise to NetPractice services.


A movement in Congress to overturn the McCarran-Ferguson Act appears to be stalled in committee, at least at press time. McCarran-Ferguson exempts insurance companies from some antitrust rules, and leaves regulation of the industry substantially in the hands of state regulators. It allows insurers to pool loss data and jointly develop policy forms.

"The Insurance Industry Competition Act of 2007" (S.618), a bill to repeal the Act was introduced in the Senate this past February 15, along with a companion bill, H.R.1081, in the House of Representatives. The House version of the bill was sent to the House Committee on the Judiciary and two other committees. The Senate version went to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which held hearings in early March.

Reaction to the bills from insurance industry groups has been uniformly negative. Chuck Chamness, president and CEO of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, said repeal of McCarran-Ferguson "could place smaller and regional firms at a distinct disadvantage, increase consumer costs, reduce consumer choice and seriously undermine competition."

Testifying at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Marc Racicot, president of the American Insurance Association and former Governor of Montana, said repeal of McCarran-Ferguson would create "a multilayer, multi-forum system of regulation that would generate confusion, uncertainty, constant litigation, and, ultimately, an unstable and unpredictable insurance system."

In an April letter to Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, who introduced S.618 and chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, Michigan State Senator Alan Sanborn, president of the National Conference of Insurance Legislators, opposed the proposed Federal legislation. If enacted, he wrote, "Insurance companies would fall prey to a complicated and very likely contradictory climate of abiding by both state and federal laws. Such confusion would destabilize insurance markets that rely on predictability to gauge risks and price products," and would lead to years of litigation.

Other industry groups that have expressed opposition to repeal of McCarran-Ferguson include the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of American and the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents. Several of the groups have educational and lobbying efforts underway.

Two of the repeal effort's four cosponsors in the Senate, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, are from states damaged in Hurricane Katrina, and Sen. Leahy, in his introductory remarks on S.618 tied repeal of McCarran-Ferguson to denial of claims by some insurers following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

But opponents of Leahy's bill point out that the distinction between flood damage and storm damage that led some insurers to deny post-Katrina claims would not be addressed by repeal of McCarran-Ferguson.

Others, besides congressional sponsors and cosponsors, have called for repeal of McCarran-Ferguson. The American Bar Association took a position against the Act in 1989, but recommends a number of "safe harbors" that would allow joint activities consistent with competitiveness in the insurance industry.


Chicago-based Insurance Networking News and Financial Insights, Framingham, Mass., released the results of the 2007 InsureTopTech awards at the ACORD/LOMA conference in Orlando. As an official ranking of top solution providers based on an industry-wide poll of insurers, InsureTopTech is being called the "voice of the market." The overall winner, Guidewire, San Mateo, Calif., took home awards in five categories. Other awards include:

Most Adds Value

1. Guidewire

2. Sircon

3. Hyland Software


1. Guidewire

2. Hyland Software

3. CSC

Keep the Business Operating

1. Guidewire

2. CSC

3. IBM

Keep Insurer Informed Through Analytics

1. Business Objects, Cognos (tied)

2. IBM

3. SAS

Help Maintain Financials

1. Peoplesoft (Oracle)

2. Fiserv

3. CSC

Help Develop/Enhance Products

1. Hyland Software

2. Guidewire

3. IBM

Help Provide Quality Customer Care

1. Guidewire

2. Hyland Software

3. AT&T, Avaya, Sircon (tied)

Optimize Workflow and BPM

1. Hyland Software

2. IBM, ImageRight (tied)

3. Ravello

Other Areas (middleware, system integration, outsourcing, hardware)

1. IBM

2. HP

3. Oracle, Dell (tied)


ACORD, Pearl River, N.Y., launched its first mini-site focused on a specific geographic area. In this case, the site is for China and in Mandarin Chinese ( It provides basic information on ACORD, standards, and the benefits of standards development and implementation that will resonate with that audience.


Thunderhead, a UK-based provider of enterprise communications software, will offer Wolters Kluwer Financial Services' pre-configured, pre-approved state insurance forms as an output channel available directly via the Thunderhead platform. The offering is designed to help insurance carriers streamline and expedite the complex process of producing carrier-specific policy forms in compliance with state and federal requirements.

Minneapolis-based Wolters Kluwer Financial Services' Insurance Compliance Solutions group provides insurance bureau forms to 600 of the top 1,000 insurance companies in the United States, helping them expedite the process of filing their forms for standard-type insurance products. With state-specific information already filled in, including the latest compliance language, carriers have a more streamlined way to speed insurance products to market. Under the new agreement, insurers will gain the ability to create and manage carrier-specific forms and standard content all within a single enterprise communications platform.

The deal is designed to enable Thunderhead customers to implement forms from Wolters Kluwer Financial Services' Insurance Compliance Solutions group more quickly, for product offerings across multiple lines. The combination will also enable insurance companies to automate creation of batch and real-time, interactive content, such as policies, letters and other customer or agent communications, says the company.


IBM has named Fiserv Inc. the winner of the "Best IBM System p AIX Solution" award in the annual IBM PartnerWorld Beacon Awards competition. The award recognized IBM business partners for their ingenuity, innovation, customer satisfaction and outstanding achievements in providing on demand business solutions. Fiserv has established IBM System p AIX and WebSphere as a preferred platform for its Policy STAR insurance management solution based on scalability, affordability and the ability to easily grow the platform as their clients' businesses grow.

AAA Missouri selected the Fiserv Policy STAR Web-based policy administration system to replace its legacy policy administration system. Rather than enter duplicate information into a standalone front-end agency system, agents enter information directly into Policy STAR, providing real-time processing and eliminating the need to pass information redundantly between the front and back-end systems.

Processing time for homeowners' insurance policies has decreased from 10 days to 2 days. Use of the system has also improved customer service since AAA's internal staff uses the same system as does customers and agents.


London-based Old Mutual Financial Network and Plano, Texas-based Perot Systems Corp. have been named the "Best Partnership," among the top outsourcing relationships across all industries, in the 2007 Outsourcing Excellence Awards, according to Dallas-based Outsourcing Center.

This is the first time in the history of the Outsourcing Excellence awards that the "Best Partnership" designation will target the insurance space, reports a Perot Systems spokesperson.

OMFN and Perot Systems were among the 86 nominations a panel of industry experts reviewed for this year's awards. Judges selected winners through a rigorous review of all components of relationship structures as well as outcomes achieved in long-term outsourcing agreements.

The award is given to the relationship the judges believe is the most outstanding example in both establishing a partnering mind-set at the outset of the relationship, and continuing to mutually demonstrate that mind-set through behaviors and decisions surrounding the ongoing business, challenges and opportunities.


The insurance industry hopes to break even or record a profit within 12 months of business process management (BPM) implementation, according to a recent survey. The survey examined and benchmarked the level of success achieved by a variety of companies that have deployed some kind of business process improvement program.

BPTrends Associates and Transformation+Innovation, Hingham, Mass., joined forces to conduct a survey, asking mid-level managers from medium to large-size organizations, business process owners, IT/infrastructure managers, and operations and internal consultants about their BPM projects. The data was analyzed and released in a report, "A Survey of Business Process Initiatives."

Authors concluded that companies are engaged in a variety of BPM activities and moving into new areas slowly. More are using process modeling tools to do process redesign than are using business process management software (BPMS) tools to undertake the development of runtime process management systems, for example.

One of the most striking revelations, according to BPTrends, was the high correlation between BPM project success and the leverage of some type of formalized discipline or practice area, most notably a BPM Center of Excellence.

The major conclusion of this survey is that the use of both BPMS and business process improvement initiatives in general are yielding favorable results for most users. The area remains relatively immature. Only a handful of firms are able to realize consistent, repeatable results. The firms achieving results are those that have made a commitment to a dedicated BPM practice area, most notable, a BPM Center of Excellence.

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