Stamford, Conn. — A new survey conducted by IVANS Inc., contends insurance carriers and agents will continue to increase investment in technologies that enable the independent agent distribution channel, despite the recent economic slowdown.

The survey found that 59% of the agents queried plan to continue investing in information technology at current levels, while nearly 14% of agents are increasing their spending. Agents report seeing similar investment patterns by insurance carriers.

"Carriers are investing in solutions that make them easy to do business with, and agents view technology as a way to generate revenue more quickly and increase competitive advantage," says Clare DeNicola, president and CEO of Stamford, Conn.-based IVANS, Inc.

Moreover, many of the agents saw technology as all the more important as the market softens. Of the 341 independent agents surveyed, 93% believed that adoption of real-time technology is critical to gaining a competitive edge in this economy. The IVANS survey also revealed that agents are using technologies that help them save time and improve customer service. Of the agents surveyed, 98% download quotes and claims data with more than two carriers, and over half download with more than five carriers.

The IVANS study dovetails with a wider push by the insurance industry to adopt single entry multiple company interface (SEMCI). In the spring of 2007, the Real Time/Download Campaign was launched. Supported by a coalition of independent agents, trade associations, carriers and technology providers, it pushes for SEMCI adoption but does not advocate a specific technology.

DeNicola does: "The survey results align well with what we're seeing in our own business, particularly with the adoption of IVANS Transformation StationSM and Download solutions that support [the] agency interface,” she says. “I expect the total number of real-time transactions within our industry to double again by year-end."

Likewise, Lisa Parry-Becker, Real Time/Download Campaign co-chair and VP of sales and marketing at William B. Parry Agency, and a director of ASCnet, the Applied Systems user group, says the statistics illustrate the importance of using industry solutions to streamline agency workflows instead of having to work with disparate connections. “Download is an essential tool that not only eliminates the re-keying of data, but it enables you to respond more quickly to customer inquiries,” she says. “Additionally, it enables you to be properly set up for real-time transactions, since the policy numbers are formatted correctly to complete service transactions—all which saves significant time and makes it easier for you to do business."

Sources: IVANS Inc., INN archives

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