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NEW YORK — In the face of new technology and insurers offering coverage to customers direct, insurance agents face challenges, but the threat from this new reality is to the agents’ traditional business model, not necessarily to their existence.

Speaking at the 23rd annual Executive Conference earlier this month, hosted by Ernst & Young and Summit Business Media, Dennis Sullivan, chairman and CEO of the Robert E. Nolan Company — a consulting firm that helps improve quality, service, and productivity for financial services organizations – said the traditional agent model faces many obstacles. There is not just more competition, he says, but smarter competition — and not only from other agencies. Carriers, Sullivan said, are becoming smarter about how they think about product distribution.

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