Beyond aggregators and online communities, insurance carriers can seek out another kind of partner-a product component partner, says Judith Johnson, vice president, insurance information strategies for Meta Group, a Stamford, Conn.-based research and consulting firm.These partnerships involve selling one another's products under a private label or co-branded relationship, pooling intellectual capital or resources to bring new products and services to market, and forming alliances centered on an event-such as buying a car. "The purpose of these 'product component partnerships' is to change customer buying patterns," Johnson says.

Wausau Insurance Co., which sells business owners insurance, is attempting to attract customers by providing value-added services through its Internet partnerships. One example: It has linked workers' compensation with the payroll processing capabilities of, a business unit of Ceridien Employment Services, Minneapolis. provides payroll and tax filing services to companies with up to 200 employees.

"We're giving a rate for our workers' comp policies, and then on a biweekly basis, Powerpay is calculating the premium and transferring it to us electronically," says Ray Hall, senior vice president, emerging markets, Wausau Insurance. Because workers' compensation premiums are based on payroll, and a company's payroll fluctuates, typically, the premium has to be adjusted through an audit at the end of the policy period. Because of Wausau's partnership with, premiums are adjusted regularly, so policyholders no longer are presented with one large adjustment bill, and Wausau doesn't have to refund over-payments.

Wausau is working on a similar deal with Avert Inc., a Fort Collins, Colo.-based company that provides employment-screening services. The two companies are in the process of developing a new product that will integrate Avert's services with Wausau's insurance for business owners.

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