Insurance & Technology is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


08:30 AM
Connect Directly

NEF Trains Agents With Streaming Video

Carrier can now track usage, while agents benefit from any-time availability.

Keeping producers up-to-speed on new products and sales processes has always been a challenge for insurers. Using technology to meet this challenge, producer training methods have included traditional documents and manuals, CD-ROMs that are mailed to agents, traveling trainers and even satellite broadcasts.

But these methods have drawbacks. Printed material and CD-ROMs are often out of date by the time they reach agents. A training staff is expensive, as is satellite broadcasting. Also, a satellite broadcast requires to agents tune in at a specific time when the program is aired.

"Satellite TV is a tremendous value," says Scott Nussey, director of media communications at Boston-based New England Financial (NEF), a MetLife company ($302.5 billion in assets). NEF has been using satellite training since 1992. "But the technology is changing. Although satellite TV is good, how do you get to people who are constantly on the road? And there are also time zone problems. We have to move to the desktop and embrace video on demand."

More importantly, almost one-third of NEF's target audience is what Nussey calls "detached agents," or agents who are not affiliated with a large agency. "Our first intention was to try to find a solution that we could offer to detached agents," he says. "Unless the detached agent went to an agency" for a satellite broadcast, "they were out of the loop."

Realizing that distributing training video over the Internet would be an important opportunity, NEF began looking in early 2002 for a technology provider that could deliver business communications to the carrier's producers, who are located in all 50 states. "Although there are other providers of this type of technology, we chose Biznews24 Bedford, NH because that is the only thing that they do," Nussey reports.

The result is a program called NEFDistanceLearning, which is part of an NEF initiative to foster inclusive training that integrates sales concepts, sales processes, product information and personal development, according to Nussey. Sales representatives also have access to interactive NAII and NASD compliance training and testing applications, all delivered through NEF's intranet site FieldFIRST.

However, since streaming video requires massive amounts of Internet bandwidth-something many agencies do not have because many are still on dial-up connections-training managers at NEF were concerned that agents might not use the new offering. "Biznews created a portal that allows us to stream video to agencies and the detached agents," Nussey says.

NEF is dealing with the bandwidth challenge in different ways. For agencies lacking a tremendous amount of bandwidth, NEF has arranged to stream video to the agency's servers during off-peak hours. "That way the video will reside on their server," Nussey says.

For detached agents who do not have an agency office, NEF has produced the streaming video in three different speeds. "At over 100 Kbps, the experience is very positive," Nussey says. "At 56K, the video is there, but not really viewable. At 28K, it is only audio. But this really hasn't been as big an issue as we thought it would be." As for NEF, no new technology was required, because NEF upgraded its internal servers and the agency servers early in 2002, he says.

Tracking Usage

FieldFIRST also allows NEF to track which agents are accessing the service and what they are looking at. Nussey says, "24/7/365 availability and tracking are the biggest benefits. We have never been able to do that." For instance, agents need NASD-compliance training for certain products and NEF can track their progress.

To date, NEF hasn't realized any cost savings, Nussey says, but it should be able to do so later in 2003 and in '04. "We will save money going forward as we reduce satellite broadcasts."



New England Financial, Boston, a MetLife affiliate, $302.5 billion in assets.


Life, disability and long-term care insurance; annuities, retirement plans and executive benefits.


Biznews24's (Bedford, NH) Media Room.


Make training programs available to more agents with streaming video.

Greg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology. View Full Bio

Register for Insurance & Technology Newsletters