LAS VEGAS--The Holy Grail of property-casualtyinsurance--single-entry, multiple-company interface--remains moreof a dream than a reality for a significant portion of disgruntledindependent agents, a poll of intermediaries has revealed.

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According to findings in the ACORD-User Groups InformationExchange (AUGIE) "2006 Agency Technology Survey," many agentsremain frustrated with tech roadblocks imposed by proprietarycarrier systems forcing them to do extra work, slowing theirprocessing time and adding to their costs.

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While agents indicated that they have benefited from real-timecommunication improvements with their carriers and clients, a largeminority indicated dissatisfaction with "multiple workflows broughton by carrier-unique systems," AUGIE noted.

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The results were announced here yesterday at a panelpresentation during the annual ACORD LOMA Insurance SystemsForum.

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When asked, "What is your agency's greatest challenge insupporting automation?" 48.9 percent of the 4,394 respondents tothis question cited "learning and using various company proprietarysystems," while another 20.2 percent said "multiple user IDs andpasswords."

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In addition, 46.6 percent of 4,254 respondents cited "duplicatedata entry" as their "major automation time waster in doingbusiness today"--by far the biggest single complaint cited inanswering this question.

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These persistent tech hurdles are having a definite, negativeimpact on how producers do business. Nearly three-quarters of therespondents either "somewhat" or "strongly" agreed that "difficultyin securing multiple quotes have restricted the number of carriers"from which they seek quotes.

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"This is not a healthy trend," said Lisa Leach-Goth, chair ofthe survey working group, in a statement released with the AUGIEsurvey results. "Many independent agencies appear to have workflowsso dependent on a couple of carriers they are missing out onopportunities to serve clients as they deserve to be served."

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Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they were at least"somewhat likely to choose a carrier--even if it is not perceivedto be the lowest price"--if their agency automation system "couldpre-fill a percentage of the fields" on their carrier's proprietaryWeb site. Ninety-one percent of the 3,822 answering the questionsaid they at least "sometimes" bypass their agency managementsystem to go directly to company Web sites.

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"While carriers have made great strides in making theirproprietary Web sites--as they describe it--efficient andconvenient, we on the AUGIE Leaders Council worry that withoutindustry-standard, multicarrier workflow, the growth of theindependent agency system could be hampered," said Ms. Goth, who isvice president of the New Bethlehem, Pa.-based Charles P. LeachAgency.

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On a positive note, "the ability to do real-time transactionshas increased dramatically since the 2002 survey," Ms. Goth noted.She said that agency management system providers have interactedwith carriers to drive a range of inquiry and other capabilitiesfor agency and brokerage professionals--most involving billingand/or policy inquiry transactions.

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The leading "real-time transactions" cited in the survey werepolicy and billing inquiries (18 percent each), claims inquiries(16 percent), and rating and endorsement processing (13 percenteach). About 86 percent of the 5,143 answering this question atleast "somewhat agree" that "real-time quoting will help in myworkflow."

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In other key survey results, it was revealed that a significantportion of agents come up short in certain critical operationalareas.

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For example, while about 80 percent of those who responded tothis question at least "somewhat" agreed that their agency hadadopted a specific policy to protect the privacy of clientinformation, that still means one out of five agencies do not havea data security policy in place.

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In addition, while about two-thirds of those responding to thequestion at least somewhat agreed that their agency has adopted aspecific disaster preparedness plan, one-third had not, leavingtheir businesses and their clients exposed in case of acatastrophe.

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