Poll Reveals Carrier, Agent Web PrioritiesInsurance carriers and agents view the Internet first as a tool to sell additional products to existing clients and next as a method for conducting business transactions, according to a poll conducted by the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA). The poll of approximately 900 agents and carriers attending the National Flood Conference in Austin, Texas, was designed to assess the participants' perceptions of technology and e-commerce as it currently applies to the insurance industry, and gauge attitudes about future trends. Meanwhile, only 17% found it important to increase business by selling directly to new customers. When queried about the frequency of modifying an online business plan, 48% indicated that this should be reviewed-and possibly redone-every six weeks, while 29% felt the online plan should be reviewed twice a year.

ePolicy Offers Malpractice Coverage

Online insurance provider ePolicy is offering malpractice insurance coverage to small accounting, bookkeeping and tax preparing firms over the Internet. Companies can manage the entire insurance buying experience, including quotes, sales and service, within minutes over the Web from major carriers, ePolicy says. The coverage, which insures against the risk of liability from accounting, bookkeeping and tax preparation errors and omissions, is currently available in about 35 states and will be offered nationwide by the end of this year, the company adds. The policies are designed for firms with 10 or fewer accountants/bookkeepers and cover principals, officers and directors of companies as well as employees, predecessors in interest and the entity itself.

Wausau, Visa Strike Net Alliance

Wausau Insurance Co., Wausau, Wis., has struck a deal with Visa U.S.A. that enables Visa cardholders to purchase insurance and pay premiums with a Visa credit card at Wausau's eWausau.com Web site. Visa cardholders can access eWausau.com at www.ewausau.com, enter their data, receive an insurance quote and have the policy bound within one business day. The program offers Visa's 330 million cardholders the option of using Wausau's new Autopay function, which gives them the option of paying a premium in one lump sum or having it automatically billed monthly. The venture will attract new business, streamline account acquisitions and reduce paper and handling costs for the insurer, says Jim Schulte, Wausau's executive for emerging markets. eWausau.com's menu of Internet-based products also features commercial automobile and business owners coverage, which includes general liability and property coverage.

Electric Provides Web Discounts

Electric Insurance Co., an auto and homeowners carrier based in Beverly, Mass., has unveiled a multistate auto insurance discount program, billed as eDiscount, that is intended to pass along savings realized through Web-based transactions. Electric Insurance plans to offer consumers a one-time $50 discount off the premium purchase price when they select an auto policy quote from the carrier's Web site www.electricinsurance.com. The new program is currently being offered to consumers in Arizona, Idaho, Missouri, New Mexico and Utah, with other states possibly to follow, says Rich Middleton, eBusiness project manager for Electric Insurance.

Online Claims Reporting Accelerates

The advent of improved technology will entice more carriers into launching online claims reporting initiatives, according to Peter Rousmaniere, president of Little Rock, Ark.-based Rousmaniere Designs. Speaking at the recent Insurance Online 2000 conference, sponsored by Insurance Networking magazine, Rousmaniere told attendees that insurers can expect to reduce workers' compensation claim costs $100 to $500 per bodily injury through online claims reporting. In a recent survey, 94% of executives said automating claims submission would reduce delays and expenses in claims management, Rousmaniere said. They also believed that it would result in better adjuster control.

Web Links Auto Purchases With Policies

Nadaguides.com, a Costa Mesa, Calif.-based service designed to help consumers negotiate the sale or purchase price for used vehicles and obtain insurance quotes, has launched an Internet venture with Norwalk, Conn.-based RiderPoint Inc. A majority of Nadaguides.com's Internet traffic originates from consumers in the process of buying or selling a vehicle. Nadaguides.com will promote the www.riderpoint.com Web site through fixed merchant links within its www.nadaguides.com site. RiderPoint's online insurance comparative rating service-RiderPointIQ-also will be available to Nadaguides.com users. "The technology enables consumers to comparatively shop for and buy their motorcycle insurance at one location," says Craig Gironda, CEO of RiderPoint.

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