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The Internet is the place to be for reinsurers and the direct writers who work with them, says Carol Sullivan, vice president of operations for Agora Insurance Network Solutions Inc., Chicago. It can make a significant dent in mailing costs and save valuable time as well, she adds.

When a direct writer sends a facultative life insurance case to a reinsurer, the process typically entails mailing a document of about 50 pages by express delivery to four or five reinsurers.

“If you send out 20 to 100 cases a week, its a very expensive, time-consuming process,” Sullivan says. “The insurers that have the best response time to their brokers are the ones likely to get the most business.”, a secure information exchange from AgoraIns, was created to eliminate the impediments of cost and time by allowing reinsurers and direct writers to bypass the mail and communicate via the Internet.

The site began as a technology project by CNA Life Re, Chicago. It evolved from a project to its own business when CNA sold its life reinsurance unit to Munich American Reassurance Company, Atlanta, at which time Agora began operating as an independent organization. Not long after, the system, staff and network were separated from Munich and reinvented as Agora Insurance Network Solutions, a wholly owned subsidiary of MARC.

A pool of 8 reinsurers, representing 80% of the reinsurers who do facultative life cases, and 3 direct writers participate in the Web site. The direct writers send cases to whichever reinsurer they choose, without the other reinsurers knowing who gets what, says Sullivan.

This commitment to maintaining an atmosphere of impartiality is behind the decision to separate from MARC.

“We feel it is important for Agora to be self-sufficient and separate from the insurance organization so we could keep everyone on a level playing field,” Sullivan says.

“When a direct writer sends out a case, the reinsurers dont know which competitors are receiving the case. The only people that will see that case are the reinsurers that company intended it to get to. Each reinsurer does not know about the others offer, but they all get the same information from the direct writer. And they get it instantly.”

Response to the site so far has been good, Sullivan says. Agora allows direct writers “to keep their documents in an electronic format, maintain an appropriate level of security around the documents and set them up with some information to allow the reinsurers to respond to direct writers efficiently.

“I think that going online is the way to go now and in the future, due to the difficulty we have with exchanging information with each other in a manual process. Doing things online is easier for information to flow from one system to another. Thats always been a big challenge in the insurance industry.”

Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, September 3, 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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