Internet, Innovation Top Insurance Forum

SAN DIEGO (03/21/2000) - IT executives in the insurance industry are forced to innovate, whether because of new competition, mergers, acquisitions or expansion, according to attendees at the Life Office Management Association Systems Forum.

For example, Toronto-based Royal & Sun Alliance Financial Services recently rolled out an Internet-based system for its brokers. According to CEO Clive Smith, the company considered simply expanding its "green-screen" legacy system when it expanded, but that would have been expensive and would have required extensive training for new employees.

Royal & Sun's new system, called FieldLink, is Web based and gives brokers real-time access to customer data with no training and no special installation costs - all the broker needs is a browser, said Smith.

The system has been so successful, he said, that even back-office staff have been switching over to FieldLink because it's easier to use.

While speakers lectured about e-commerce, customer relationship management, document imagining, telecommuting and outsourcing, conference attendees compared notes about how fast - or slow - their companies are moving.

Consultants and vendors, meanwhile, filled the exhibitor hall pitching products aimed to move insurance companies into the Internet age.

"The competition you know is not your competition," warned John McCauley, IBM's global vice president of insurance sector consulting. IBM had a strong presence on the exhibitor floor.

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