A new "superportal" is being launched to create a one-stop technology shopping resource and what its developers describe as a "next-generation Internet technology platform"primarily for financial intermediaries, but also to benefit the insurance companies and other financial institutions whose products they sell.
Headquartered in Boston, NGi Financial e-Services, Inc., or NGiPlace (www.NGiPlace.com), was founded this past October, following several months of discussions between financial institutions and IT vendors. The portal has been under development since November. It plans to officially launch the service in August, when it will begin charging monthly subscription fees for what is now a free service. Growing from a half dozen firms three months ago, the site now includes more than 40 companies, including insurers (such as CGU Life), wholesalers (such as Wealth2k), vendors (such as Oxxford Information) and agents (such as G.P. Durette Insurance Services).
With insurance agents and other intermediaries increasingly dependent on technology to effectively sell products and service clients, it has gotten harder for them to effectively obtain the information and strategic resources they need to be competitive, according to NGiPlace founder and president Alan Michaels. (The other key executive at NGiPlace is Bob Jenkins, industry transformation specialist.) "The primary goal of this venture is to improve the industry structure for all companies," he continues. "This is to improve the IT capabilities of agents and financial intermediaries, so they can level the technology playing field with the financial giants that are going direct. It provides easy access, one-stop shoppingit becomes a virtual IT department they can go to."
NGiPlace will not be in the business of developing software such as agency management systems or sales force automation tools, according to Michaels. Rather, "NGiPlace will be an easy plug-and-play platform developed by Intermeg (New York) that will allow vendors of all types to distribute to agents. We will allow any number of companies within a category, and we will have hundreds of categories, including claims handling, DSL capabilities, prospecting tools, all kinds of insurance and financial planning tools." The site will also offer distance learning and continuing education (CE) courses through its NGI University channel (www.NGiUniversity.com).
Although there are a number of portals and Web-based services already geared to the agent/broker market, Michaels believes NGiPlace is unique because of its broad scope (it covers all major lines of business in financial services) and the fact that it is focused on helping agents leverage next-generation Internet technologies. Also, he says, "We're doing this not only to help independent agents, but to help enhance the industry structure for carriers that use agents. Typically insurance companies are building or have built their own systems, which frustrates agents to no end. Rather than each carrier having to spend tens of millions of dollars on major IT systems that really have the same functionality as other companies' it's less costly if they can all use, in an ASP model, an industry-wide application, and it helps the agent because they only have to use one user interface."
The initial development platform that will support these offerings includes Intermeg development and hosting management services, Compaq (Houston) servers, Cisco (Santa Clara, CA) routers and switchers. The operating system is Microsoft (Redmond, WA) Windows 2000 Advanced Server; language is ASP and SQL 2000 Server (and soon Microsoft.net).
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio