NU Online News Service, May 20, 2003, 3:15 p.m. EDT – Worksite benefits carriers are making more use of alternate distribution channels, according to a new survey report from Eastbridge Consulting Group Inc., Avon, Conn.

Channels such as banks, credit unions, affinity groups and Internet-based sales programs will play an even greater role in the future, Eastbridge predicts.

Thirty-four carriers participated in the firm’s latest worksite industry survey. About half say they are using an alternate distribution channel, says Eastbridge vice president Bonnie Brazzell.

“Even among those that are not pursuing alternate channels, half said that they plan to but have not yet had the time to do so,” Brazzell says.

Insurers seem to be concerned that traditional channels alone will fail to provide the growth levels they want, Eastbridge concludes.

Forty-one percent of the participating worksite product carriers called alternate channels be “extremely” or “very” important to their marketing efforts currently, and 70% said they expect alternate channels to be “extremely” or “very important” to their company in the future. Just over 20% said that they generate annual worksite product sales of more than $1 million through their alternate channels.

Forty-eight percent are currently pursuing associations or affinity groups, while 43% say they are using credit unions. However, when channels likely to be pursued in the future were added to those already being used, associations and banks ranked first and second, respectively, as the most favored channels.