NU Online News Service, Nov. 17, 2003, 1:30 p.m. EST – Independent agents participating in a recent survey named the Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., Hartford, as a clear favorite in both the life/health and property/casualty segments of the industry.

Prudential, Pacific Life and John Hancock also were named as favorites among independent life/health agents, says the survey sponsor, Celent Communications Inc., Boston.

At the same time, independent insurance producers have relatively few favorite carriers and spread their new business across three carriers or more, Celent found.

Celent’s study concludes that insurance carriers on both sides of the industry need to do a better job of positioning themselves with producers.

“The vast majority of carriers don’t give independent producers the right suite of products, services and technology to meet their needs,” says Craig Weber, author of Celent’s “Independent Producer Survey,” which it published in both life/health and property/casualty editions. “The result is that distribution investments are often wasted.”

For insurance products, price, features and underwriting speed are typically what Weber calls “table stakes”–enough to put carriers in the running for a piece of new business but not enough to distinguish a carrier and give producers a reason to place most of their business with it.

“It did not appear that technology was a major factor” in choosing carriers, says Weber. “But then we asked producers to name a favorite carrier and the reason for their choice. The results suggest that technology can be a key differentiator if it improves producers’ day-to-day quality of life.”

Producers who did name favorites tended to be enthusiastic about their choice, Weber says.

The survey was administered to 1,600 independent producers in August.