Bill Would Open Door For Retirement AdviceA bill that would enable independent agents and brokers to provide counsel to participants in employer-sponsored investment plans was approved in November by the House of Representatives by a 280-144 vote. The Retirement Security Advice Act (H.R. 2269) is sponsored by the House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner (R-Ohio). The measure would open the door for independent agents and brokers to advise workers participating in a plan, without having to become registered investment advisors. Under current law, the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) prohibits retirement plan participants from receiving investment advice from the financial institution managing the plan's investment options or acting in other fiduciary or service provider capacities. H.R. 2269 includes provisions mandating that advisers must disclose fees and conflicts to plan participants when giving advice. A similar Senate measure, the Independent Investment Act (S. 1677), is expected to be taken up this year.

Insurance Revolution Launches Subsidiary

Insurance Revolution Inc., the Princeton, N.J.-based parent company of InsureHiTech, launched a second wholly owned subsidiary, Insurance Revolution Technology Inc. IRTechnology Inc. now holds all the technology assets once held under InsureHiTech, a specialty property/casualty insurance broker for emerging growth and technology companies. IRTechnology now licenses the platform, and provides integration services to insurance carriers, brokers and agency management systems providers. The creation of IRTechnology removes the technology burden from InsureHiTech, which will enable the company to reach profitability within the next few quarters, according to InsureHiTech CEO Rick Maloy.

Quotesmith.com Acquires Insure.com

Online insurance broker Quotesmith.com, Darien, Ill., has acquired selected assets of privately held West Hartford, Conn.-based Insurance News Network LLC, including its flagship Web site, www.insure.com. Under the terms of the agreement, Quotesmith.com paid $1.4 million in cash and issued 316,000 stock options. The company expects to end the year with cash and short-term investments of $17 million. The insure.com site currently receives an average of 400,000 visitors per month and contains a 7,500-page library of insurance articles, as well as decision-making tools. Visitors to the site will now be able to receive instant quotes and transactional capability to purchase from companies affiliated with Quotesmith.com.

Annuity.com Rolls Out Direct Product

Annuity.com, an online aggregator of a wide range of annuity products, is adding a new product to its portfolio in partnership with New York-based American Life Insurance Company. Under the terms, Annuity.com, an operating unit of Middleboro, Mass.-based Cornerstone Financial Products Inc., is launching Annuity.com Direct Annuity on its Web platform. Regarded as the first product in the portfolio that can be completely opened and managed online, the no-load offering provides more than 30 investment options from fund families such as Invesco, AIM, Berger and American Century. Annuity.com Direct Annuity also is the only product on the Annuity.com platform that offers no insurance company fees-including sales charges, annual fees, and mortality, expense and surrender charges-as well as asset management features such as systematic contributions and withdrawals. In managing the product entirely online, customers can receive quarterly updates, annual and semi-annual reports and other account information.

Zurich Develops Online Life Application

Schaumburg, Ill.-based Zurich Life, a member of Zurich Financial Services Group, has developed a process that enables agents to go online and submit paperless term life pre-applications. The process has been in pilot tests with select Zurich Life general agents since September, and launches this month. An agent logs on to fill in a pre-application and electronically submits the information to Zurich Life's TeleLife unit, which follows through with all the administrative details necessary to complete the application. The information is received at a home office in real time for processing, and a TeleLife representative can quickly contact the applicant to complete the application interview and schedule a medical exam. With only five input screens to complete, agents can enter the applicant's data and then review it for accuracy. The pre-applications are submitted instantly with an agent's electronic signature, and TeleLife finishes the process. Writing agents automatically receive an e-mail confirmation of TeleLife's receipt of the pre-application.

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