Small Cos. Uncertain On Cyber-risk CoverageThe Hartford Financial Services Group surveyed 282 companies with fewer than 500 employees and found 80% were not sure whether their current insurance policy covered such specific cyber-risks as e-mail viruses, Web site business interruption, online copyright infringement and Internet privacy. The study focused on small and mid-sized firms that currently use the Internet but not as their primary revenue generator. An independent online market research firm conducted the study on behalf of The Hartford. "Most standard business coverages were established before the Internet became a common business tool," says Judy Blades, executive vice president in charge of business insurance at The Hartford, Hartford, Conn. "It has only been in recent years that problems associated with the World Wide Web have come to the forefront. For example, businesses have lost their customer databases from e-mail viruses or have been sued for posting copyrighted material on their Web site. These findings underscore the need for carriers to clarify their coverages in these areas.

MIB Adopts ACORD XML Interface

MIB Group Inc., a Westwood, Mass.-based voluntary association of nearly 600 life insurance companies, has reached an agreement with ACORD, Pearl River, N.Y., to promote industry adoption of ACORD's XML for Life Insurance standards in IT architecture. MIB will implement three new ACORD-approved TXLife transactions designed for communication between MIB and its member companies. The approved transactions will initially cover the MIB Checking Service. As it begins the implementation of the XML interface, MIB is seeking vendors and carriers who are interested in being among the first to adopt the new technology. MIB plans to work with ACORD to develop additional transactions for business communications.

Carriers' Use Of EBPP Rising

The banking and financial industry has the highest concentration of electronic bill presentment and payment (EBPP) practitioners, according to a report by Xplor International. Xplor's 2000-2001 Technology Directions Survey shows that 48% of Xplor International members in the finance/banking industry have an active EBPP program in place. The insurance, manufacturing and government industries round out the top four users of EBPP, says the Torrance, Calif.-based association. The survey indicates a substantial increase in EBPP adoption rates for the insurance industry when compared with the 1999 survey. The survey shows that 28% of insurance companies have a pilot or full EBPP program in place, compared with only 8% last year. Some 38% of Xplor members in the insurance industry are investigating EBPP.

Erie Develops E-commerce Initiative

Erie, Pa.-based property & casualty insurer Erie Insurance Group has developed an e-commerce program that will involve the distribution of insurance products exclusively through independent agents. Under a three-year timetable, the initial phase will call for the integration of the carrier's commercial/personal lines policy system with a complete customer relationship management system. Completion of the first phase is slated for 2003. The second phase of the program will incorporate features to enhance access via the Internet for policyholders and agents, and provide tools to employees to further streamline the claims process. Total five-year expenditures for the program are estimated at $150 million to $175 million, the cost of which will be shared among several companies of the Erie Insurance Group, including the Erie Indemnity Co.

Iwix Ceases Operations; Ebix Appeals Delisting

Internet specialty insurance marketplace iwix.net LLC ceased operations on April 30 due to its inability to secure additional funding. The exit plan was approved by the Chicago-based iwix's board of directors and communicated to the company's 43 carrier and MGA partners and 3,100 broker and agent members several weeks prior to the closing. Meanwhile, another Internet insurance marketplace, ebix.com Inc., is appealing a Nasdaq staff determination that the Atlanta-based company fails to comply with Nasdaq's minimum net tangible assets, market capitalization or earnings standards, and its securities are therefore subject to delisting. A Nasdaq panel is expected to hear ebix's appeal this month. Ebix executives say the company's previously announced $7 million funding agreement with BRIT Insurance Holdings Plc will provide ebix with a reasonable buffer beyond the Nasdaq minimum net tangible assets requirement of $2 million. This is the second time ebix has appealed a delisting by the Nasdaq since the company's inception. And last fall, the company was under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for its accounting practices.

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