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In a study of the current state of insurance agent adoption of technology, IVANS finds that 84.3 percent of agents prefer to work with carriers they consider "aggressive" in their use of new technology.

In a study of the current state of insurance agent adoption of technology in the United States, IVANS finds that 84.3 percent of independent agents prefer to work with carriers that they consider "aggressive" in their use of new technology. Responses from more than 400 agents polled identified real-time agency interfaces and high-bandwidth Internet applications as impacting agents' business.

Insurers uncertain about whether producer uptake would be significant enough to warrant projects resulting in higher bandwidth applications may take heart from the survey, according to Maggie O'Hara, divisional vice president of offering management, IVANS (Greenwich, Conn.). The survey shows that "agents are geared up to handle higher-bandwidth applications and they want their data processed in real time," explains O'Hara. "In response, carriers need to provide [producers] with applications that allow them to work through agency management systems to more efficiently process policy information and service customers."

With regard to technology adoption, the IVANS study shows that 91.2 percent of independent agent participants are currently using some form of a broadband connection to process transactions with insurance carriers. Eighty-six percent of those surveyed have an agency management system in place. The study also shows that 15 percent of independent insurance agencies surveyed are currently using virtual private network technologies to securely connect with other offices or remote employees, and 47 percent of agents' management systems are now linked to a Web site to process policyholder information.

The findings of the study indicate that recent advances such as real-time agency interfaces with insurance companies and the use of broadband technologies have dispelled concerns from a few years ago about disintermediation of agents when new technologies are embraced, according to O'Hara. She relates that agent-assisting technologies have helped to convert agents into technology proponents.

"When the Internet originally started to gain popularity it was viewed as a threat to agents," O'Hara asserts. "Now technology is becoming a valued platform and it has enhanced the producers' role in the distribution process."

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