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Spectator Sport

The success of the movie Gladiator probably explains why people are taking so much pleasure in the dot-com shakeout, and why observers are ready to find problems in almost any insurance e-commerce initiative. The film shows the enjoyment the Romans found in watching muscular men pummel, bloody and otherwise demolish each other. The movie's strong box office indicates that, 2,000 years later, people still like watching a bloodbath-something also evident in the apparent pleasure analysts take in each failure, wrong turn and retrenchment.

Indeed, from the results of recent market research, one might conclude that e-commerce has been a colossal flop in insurance. An American Express/Yankelovich Partners survey of people who sought financial advice in the past year found that 62 percent say they don't use the Internet for financial planning. Of those who do use the Net, fewer than one in 10 have turned to financial services Web sites. And, according to a Conning & Co. study, online sales account for only about one percent of today's personal lines P&C premium. It seems as if everyone's ready to give a "thumbs down" on the industry's ability to be competitive in the e-arena.

Well, just as the emperor fatally underestimated the battered-but-determined gladiator Maximus, it would be imprudent to count out the battered, maligned-and determined-insurance industry. Businesses that only a year or two ago seemed destined for elimination-in particular, old-economy businesses such as insurance companies-now are starting to look more savvy, flexible and dominant. Allstate and InsWeb just inked an agreement that seems to take the "online mall" concept to a new level. Remember how much skepticism greeted Allstate's announcement in 1999 it would go multi-channel? But those plans are on track, while the online banks and trading ventures are scrambling to stay on their feet. Don't be so quick to throw the industry to the tigers.

I'm pleased to announce the launch of Insurance & Technology News, a biweekly email newsletter that will provide insurance technology decision-makers with news and analysis of events that impact their businesses (see page 14 for details). Also, dates and location have been confirmed for I&T's Executive Summit 2001: December 9-12, at Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix. Please visit for subscription, registration and sponsorship information about both the Executive Summit and Insurance & Technology News.

Katherine Burger, Editorial Director

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

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