Bel Air, Md.-based Harford Mutual Insurance Co. is a latecomer to agency portals, and that, suggests Steve Fabian, assistant VP for IT, isn't necessarily a bad thing. By arriving late, the company was able to draw on its agents' experience with other portals, and take its pick of mature systems from industry vendors. Coincidentally, the new portal also served as an incentive to update the technology behind some of its existing systems. Founded 166 years ago in Harford County, Md., Harford Mutual offers a range of commercial property/casualty and workers' compensation coverage through more than 250 independent agents in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Delaware, Tennessee, North Carolina and the District of Columbia. Harford Mutual's direct written premium is around $110 million, and the firm employs about 120 people.

The carrier rolled out its first agency portal, an inquiry-only link, in late 2006. Although it worked well, its limited functionality wasn't in line with what Harford agents had become accustomed to from other companies they represented, and they said as much. "We increased our marketing effort a number of years ago," Fabian recalls, "and marketing and sales began to focus more on improving our agency relationships."

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