Allstate's Web Program Gains MomentumFollowing a May pilot launch in Oregon, Northbrook, Ill.-based Allstate Insurance Co. in July rolled out its national consumer-direct sales program via the Internet. The initiative is part of a revised long-term strategy that will underscore two new channels to market its insurance products: the Internet and telephone call centers, Edward Liddy, Allstate's president and CEO, told financial services industry executives in late June. As part of its strategy, Allstate isn't expected to partner with online aggregators that sell insurance policies from multiple company programs, Liddy added. Allstate only plans to make automobile insurance available on its Web site and through its call centers, but may add homeowners' insurance in September.

Processing Rife with Inefficiency: Study

Insurance carriers must achieve better efficiency in processing claims, a report by San Francisco-based financial services and insurance industry consultant Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown states. The report, entitled "The Insufferable $23 Billion Property/Casualty Claims Process: How Technology Can Help," is as an overview of how technology can improve claims efficiency and enhance indemnity payment strategies. "In our opinion, artificial intelligence will surely aid the industry, as it can act as an automatic piloting system to help navigate tradeoffs between efficiency and total indemnity payments," the report states. Carriers incur average direct per-policy expenses of $232, average indirect expenses of $129 and an average indemnity payment of $1,552 a year within the claims processing function.

InsWeb, Progressive Each Claim Top Spot

Although the evidence is conflicting based on surveys conducted by online audience measurement firms, Progressive Insurance Co. and Redwood City, Calif.-based insurance mall InsWeb are both staking a claim to the title of "most frequently visited insurance Web site." In June, Progressive reported that Nielsen//NetRatings tapped the Mayfield Village, Ohio-based carrier as the most visited insurance site based on the number of unique visitors. Progressive said that its www.progressive.com site had attracted more than 690,000 unique visitors to its site in May based on Nielsen//NetRatings' findings while InsWeb tallied 517,000. Meantime, InsWeb claims it was the No. 1 site in April based on a unique visitor count by New York City-based Media Metrix, which reported that InsWeb had accumulated 1.3 million unique users to its site to Progressive's 541,000. Reflecting Internet traffic for May, Reston, Va.-based PC Data Online reported InsWeb totaled 1.2 million unique visitors compared to Progressive's 709,000.

Web Sales Will Reduce Expenses: Study

A new study by global reinsurance firm Swiss Re Group predicts that online sales for personal lines insurance will total 5% to 10% of sales in the U.S. and 3% to 5% in Europe by 2005. In addition, e-business efficiencies will enable U.S. personal lines insurers to cut their costs by up to 12%, according to the study, "The Impact of e-business on the Insurance Industry: Pressure to Adapt-Chance to Reinvent." The report concludes that U.S. personal lines insurers may be able to decrease their expenditures on sales, administration, claims settlement and claims payments by up to $15 billion a year.

Quicken Insurance Rated Top Portal

For the second consecutive quarter, Mountain View, Calif.-based QuickenInsurance was selected the best Internet insurance marketplace by Gomez Advisors, a Lincoln, Mass.-based company that rates and reviews corporate online sites. QuickenInsurance bested such Web sites as InsWeb, Insurance.com, Youdecide.com and QuickQuote for the top honor among insurance marketplaces recognized by Gomez' Internet Insurance Marketplace Scorecard. QuickenInsurance received top honors in two categories: ease of use relationship services. Gomez also lauded QuickenInsurance for providing a wide variety of auto and life insurance options to online consumers. The rating firm also cited the Web site's ability to delive instant online auto and life insurance quotes through a "slick, easy-to-use interface."

IVANS Pushes XML Usage

IVANS, a Greenwich, Conn.-based developer of translation software, is seeking participation from reinsurers, brokers and other industry sources, for a pilot project to exchange information via the Internet using Extensible Markup Language, or XML. The initiative comes on the heals of XML standards finalization by the Joint Venture, a international group of reinsurance and insurance organizations that develops and maintains standards for structured data. "The Joint Venture's UN/EDIFACT standards are being used successfully in the reinsurance industry, but the commitment of resources necessary to implement (the standards) successfully has discouraged some potential users," says Charles Venezia, IVANS director of reinsurance service. After the pilot, IVANS plans to offer conversion of the sender data into other formats besides XML.

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