One component of carriers' distribution strategy has been to build distributor portals or extranets that enable an agent or broker to log in to a carrier's Web site to obtain company or customer information. A Gartner Inc. study conducted in mid-year 2003 with 84 U.S.-based insurers found that 75% of P&C and 83% of life and health insurers had built a distributor extranet.Although the adoption rate among distributors is high, many portals are simplistic, says Kimberly Harris, research director at Gartner Inc. Sites may be static and not support real-time transactions. Many sites do not allow agents to query on policy information or transaction history.

Only 3% of P&C and 12% of L/H insurers report that they have enabled distributors to obtain information from the portal via a wireless device. The majority (84% of P&C and 70% of L/H insurers) report no initiative or no plans to wirelessly enable distributor portals.

More investment is needed to optimize return on investment from portals and ensure distributor satisfaction, according to Gartner.

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