Imagine how difficult it must be for an independent agent to locate a carrier that covers beekeepers or acupuncturists. Or, from a carrier's perspective, finding agents who will sell employee dishonesty or bailee coverages.MarketScout, a Dallas-based venture that was launched in June 2000, is using the Internet to help retail insurance agents get quotes and bind polices for more than 700 classes of business, primarily specialty insurance. Since it's inception, the company has registered more than 13,000 agents who have free access to information and quotes provided by 67 carriers, including such heavyweights as American International Group Inc. (AIG), Travelers Insurance The St. Paul Cos., Safeco, Cigna and Fireman's Fund.

MarketScout is an online community where independent agents can link with experts-typically underwriters for an insurance company or a managing general agency-to discuss technical issues pertaining to a specific industry segment. These "e-industry specialists" must have a minimum of 10 years experience in their industry or coverage class, and they also have binding authority on behalf of the carrier.

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