The Big "I" Markets Records First SaleThe Insurance Agents of America's Big "I" Markets program recorded itsfirst insurance sale in July. The program, which currently is onlyavailable to IIAA-member agents in New Jersey, is an Internet-basedspeciality and niche-market access program that's designed to supportindependent agents' sales efforts. Agents are able to secure coverages forclients, research terms and conditions, submit application data online anddownload policy forms. The program is scheduled to launch in Oklahoma andVirginia in August, with gradual expansion to the rest of the U.S.Recently, the Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., Hartford, Conn.,began accepting online policy applications submitted by agentsparticipating in the Big "I" Markets program. The Hartford expects toexpand the products it offers through the program to the 48 contiguousstates.

Web Site Launched For Life Agents

AgentLIFE, a Tampa-based online information resource designed for lifeinsurance professionals, has launched a Web site, www.agentlife.com, thatwill host a virtual insurance firm, including tools and services to connectlife insurance professionals to more of what they need to carry out theirjobs more efficiently. The site will offer departments that will cater tomarketing, corporate counsel, research/development, case design,underwriting, administration and licensing/education. AgentLIFE, which wasestablished in 1999, offers life insurance professionals such features asan online print center, a section on career opportunities, a businessopportunities area and daily updated news and contemporary industry topics.The site also offers a resource library with customized presentations,correspondence, spreadsheets and applications.

HomeCom Divests InsureRate, FIMI

Atlanta-based HomeCom Communications Inc. has agreed to sell FIMI, itsthird-party marketing and insurance agency, and InsureRate, its Web sitemarketplace, to a management group composed of FIMI principals and otherinvestors. InsureRate sells term life, auto, health, homeowners and petinsurance via the Internet. HomeCom acquired FIMI in March 1999. Thedivestiture will enable HomeCom to focus on its core offerings of Webdevelopment and professional services, company executives say. It will alsoresult in a substantial cash infusion and reduction of overhead asapproximately 35 employees and related operational costs will beeliminated. As part of the restructuring, Jim Ellsworth, HomeCom's chieffinancial officer, will become CFO of InsureRate. HomeCom will continue tooffer insurance application development services and intranet/extranettechnology to the banking, brokerage and insurance industries.

CitiGroup Unveils Web Growth Strategy

Financial services giant CitiGroup Inc. has taken two ambitious stepsto bolster its Internet business. Citigroup has secured preferred status onAmerica Online under an agreement that runs through 2002. In addition,Citigroup will launch a Web site that will enable consumers to collectpersonal financial information from different banks, brokers and insurers.As part of its pact with AOL, Citigroup has been granted permission to sellbanking, insurance and other services to AOL's 26 million customers andwill be the preferred marketer of bank accounts, loans, investments andinsurance on AOL's personal finance sites. Citigroup also has launchedmyciti.com, a Web site that's designed to consolidate personal accountinformation from Citibank, Salomon Smith Barney, Travelers Insurance andrival financial firms.

Progessive Named Top Insurance Site

Progressive.com, the Web property of Mayfield Village, Ohio-basedProgressive Insurance Co., has been named the top insurance carrier Website by Gomez Inc., a Lincoln, Mass.-based company that rates and reviewsonline programs. Gomez cited Progressive's "superior quote and onlinepolicy management features," and singled out Progressive's ability toprovide instant and competitive quotes as a key attribute. Gomez alsoselected QuickenInsurance as the top Internet insurance marketplace for thesecond consecutive quarter. QuickenInsurance ranked ahead of such Webmarketplace sites as InsWeb, Insurance.com, YouDecide.com and QuickQuote.Gomez launded QuickenInsurance for ability to provide a wide variety ofauto and insurance quotes.

New Laws Will Spur E-Commerce: Rowen

Although it still lags behind other industries in electronic commerce,online sales will grow significantly over the next several years, spurredby public demand and assisted by new electronic signature laws. That'saccording to Robyn Rowen, senior counsel for the National Association ofIndependent Insurers (NAII), who spoke at the Association of CaliforniaInsurance Companies' annual General Counsel Seminar in Las Vegas. Rowendiscussed the quest for a uniform recognition of electronic signatures andthe impact this will have on insurance e-commerce.

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