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A deep red Porsche might be everybodys dream car because it moves really fast and it looks gorgeous.

The same logic that explains why people like a speedy, red German sports car can be applied to the sales process of life insurance products. Sales efforts will be more rewarding if they are implemented speedily and utilize diverse materials that have visual appeal.

In this light, together as well as separately, two software suites that are currently on the market may help agents and brokers productivity.

The 2002 version of Journey, a needs-based selling system developed by COSS Development Corp., Milwaukee, Wis., can boost the speed of business and the retention level of clients with a variety of modules (software components designed to handle a specific task within an operating system), the company claims.

The latest version of Journey comes up with a wealth transfer module for converting retirement assets into life insurance and a financial inventory module including personal balance sheet, income statement and cash flow analysis.

“From the manufacturers standpoint, this software suite helps improve the retention of clients,” says Cathy D. Belteau, system content developer at COSS, “because it provides a range of analyses.” Indeed, the software suite, while running on a server- or non-server-based system, covers most aspects of life insurance and retirement plans, including survivorship, retirement, wealth accumulation, estate planning and income preservation.

While it features time- and labor-saving properties, Journey can run on such outdated systems as a 486 personal computer. “Agents are reluctantly spending money updating their computers,” notes Belteau. “We have tried to program to the lowest common denominator.” The software requires a minimum of 4MB of RAM and a 4MB hard disk to run smoothly, she adds.

COSS says it has updated the software solutions in consultation with its customers. “We have worked with COSS on developing wealth transfer packages,” says Gary A Cook, vice president of life insurance marketing at the AIG Life Insurance Companies, Wilmington, Del. “What we have been assigned to do is help educate clients about annuities and other plans, and how these plans can be better utilized.”

AIG began using Journey about two years ago, he adds. “Within the broker-dealer registration system of Sun America, an AIG unit, there are more than 9,000 sales representatives,” he says. “Journey is doing a very good job helping people choose fixed and variable annuities and set up qualified retirement plans.”

It requires some training to use Journey. “We have a training department that goes out to train trainers in our customers offices,” says Belteau. Customers can also click on to the companys Web site at www.cossdv.com to learn basic skills. The software suite itself contains an interactive computer-based training module.

From the customers point of view, Journey appears to be easy to run. “You can buy Journey right off the shelves and use it,” notes Cook. “We at AIG wanted to customize Journey. That takes more knowledge to run it,” he says. AIG had five training sessions before running Journey, according to Cook.

COSS declines to disclose the exact license fee for Journey, Belteau says. “It is on a sliding scale, depending on how many modules they need and how many users they will have.”

Versatile Illustration Partner, a desktop illustration program developed by SunGard Insurance Systems, Miami, is a customizable desktop-to-Internet life insurance proposal platform that support insurers policy types and illustration needs.

“The VIP system allows users to cover all distribution channels from basic ledgers to comprehensive corporate life insurance,” says Al Beram, president at SunGard. “It allows them to add sales concepts as their needs change and markets evolve.”

A major feature of VIP is its compatibility. The program can integrate with complementary software applications, allowing illustrations to fit into the extended sales process, notes Beram. “It deploys illustrated data on the Internet, a network or the desktop.”

It takes one or two days of training to run the software, he notes. “We usually train trainers to let our customers use VIP better.” It requires Windows 98 or higher and Internet Explorer 5.0 to run the system.

VIP appears to be finding a niche in upscale markets, and the corporate-owned life insurance and benefits market is among them. “In serving this market, we need a very sophisticated broker force and software tools,” says Stan Brallier, vice president of corporate specialty markets at Lincoln Financial Group, Philadelphia. “We have provided VIP primarily for our brokers design staff.”

Asked why Lincoln decided to use VIP, he answers, “We did a pretty thorough survey and concluded that VIP features sophisticated capabilities that are needed to serve the corporate life insurance market.”

He says that graphics is not a main driver in the marketing of life insurance products. However, “VIP can do complex calculations for benefits designs and aggregate them into large cases for composite results,” Brallier notes. “It also helps us get data into the system easily and get results out easily.”

VIP ranges in price from $100,000 to $475,000, depending on the number of modules included in the package.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, July 13, 2001. Copyright 2001 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.


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