IVANS Inc., a provider of networking and e-commerce solutions for the insurance and healthcare industries, announced the results of an independent insurance agent survey covering technology issues such as security and agency-company interface.
The survey revealed that Internet security is a major concern for independent agents, with 80 percent most worried about viruses and worms. Hackers are also an issue, with 42 percent stating that this is their second-biggest worry.
“Financial losses from viruses were expected to reach a five-year high in 2004, and smaller businesses, like independent agencies, can be more vulnerable because they often have smaller IT staffs,” said Clare DeNicola, president and CEO, IVANS. “With one in 16 e-mails carrying a virus and 70 percent of security risks stemming from insiders, agencies need to be sure they are protected.”
Agencies can take steps to protect themselves from these security threats. They include:
— Installing anti-virus software and updating it regularly
— Ensuring employees are aware of the latest scams and do not open suspicious or unsolicited e-mails
— Immediately disabling passwords and access for departing employees
— Shutting out spyware by no longer using Windows 95 or 98, signing up for Microsoft security updates and purchasing – and running – anti-spyware utilities
— Ensuring wireless networks are secure by buying equipment that supports Wi-Fi protected access encryption
— Setting up an Internet firewall
— Using strong authentication, such as digital certificates or tokens, or robust passwords that are at least eight characters long and include letters, numbers and symbols
To help educate agents on security and other technology-related issues, IVANS is hosting a free webcast for agents on April 29. Attendance is limited, and agents interested in registering should go to www.ivans.com/agentexpress or contact IVANS at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-288-4826, ext. 7225.
The survey also revealed the increasing importance of agency management systems to independent agents, with 100 percent of respondents indicating they currently use an agency management system.
In a similar survey conducted by IVANS in November 2003, 86 percent used an agency management system. In addition, 76 percent of this year’s respondents prefer to retrieve carrier information through their agency management systems, versus 52 percent in 2003.
In this year’s survey, only 10 percent of agents said they prefer to retrieve data through carrier Web sites, and 8 percent prefer to receive information via paper. With regard to what is most important when exchanging data with their carriers, 57 percent of agents reported integration with their agency-management systems is most important. On average, respondents conduct business with 14 carriers and perform downloads with seven.
“These results indicate the importance of industry-standard solutions to the independent insurance agent,” said DeNicola. “The communications and interface solutions available through agency management systems simplify workflows and improve efficiencies for agencies.”
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