With baby boomers representing an increasing share of the retirement and financial services market, agents and carriers are turning to technology for the latest tools to boost sales efforts and aid in serving customers.

Several software vendors have made recent announcements of tools in such areas as sales, illustration and customer service.

Illustrate Inc. of Toronto, Canada, has announced availability of new Web-based in-force universal life and new business policy illustration products. The company says the new products “have the power to provide head office staff and distributors with uncomplicated access, anytime and anywhere, to the most comprehensive and current policy and client data.”

They also can run reports and handle transactions “instantly” and can “submit fully compliant illustrations electronically along with the application,” the company notes. Illustrations can be saved and retrieved online. A field representative can “present the customer with a full view of their options and projections, as well as all supporting materials and forms, in one visit,” says Illustrate Inc.

“These products were built by boomers,” states Mara Bartolucci, spokesperson for Illustrate Inc. “The people youre selling to and the people who built them are the same audience.”

The products typically would be purchased by carriers, who would send them out to brokers and agents, she explains.

“For Illustrate Inc. clients, Web-based applications are significantly reducing application maintenance and support costs, and eliminating distribution and version control expenses,” says Zahir Dhalla, president of the company. “Customers can now efficiently maintain and support a single version of each of their in-force and new business illustration applications on their central servers. Without further intervention, updates, rate changes, product changes, etc., reach all users at once.”

The Microsoft Windows-based products are priced at $50,000 per year for a minimum corporate licensing of components, but costs may range up to $1 million to $2 million, including consulting, for larger installations, says Illustrate Inc.

BISYS has announced its new Rollover Solutions Network, a technology platform that automates opening IRS rollover accounts and facilitates paperless distribution.

According to New York-based BISYS, the network will be accessible in the second quarter of 2004 via the companys Web site for retirement plan participants. The network automates “numerous time-consuming and error-prone manual processes,” the company says. It functions as an electronic interface between BISYS recordkeeping platform and various applications that are used to open brokerage accounts.

The platform facilitates real-time openings of IRA rollover accounts and electronically processes participant distributions, says BISYS. It also automatically tracks distribution and rollover activity.

According to Christopher Guarino, president of BISYS Retirement Services, the new network “streamlines a very manual process” involved in moving from a 401(k) plan to an IRA. Normally, this process involves much paperwork and opening of new accounts. The network, he notes, automatically establishes a new IRA account, generates needed transactions and automatically transfers funds.

“Automating the IRA rollover and distribution process will address an industrywide need for retirement services providers and enable our plan sponsor clients to enhance their participant services,” he continues.

Institutions utilizing the platform pay an account setup fee of $45 per account, he adds. More information is available at www.bisys.com.

Torrid Technologies Inc. has released version 3 of its Retirement Savings Planner 2004-Professional Edition.

According to Atlanta-based Torrid, the new product provides quick, simple and visual retirement planning capability for financial advisors, brokers and planners. The product “educates clients about their retirement situations, builds trust with new clients and makes it easier to win their business.”

“Our mission to keep it simple benefits financial advisors who have a limited amount of time to work with a potential client to convince them to use their services,” says Timothy Turner, co-founder and inside counsel for Torrid. “There often just isnt time to get the client to fill out a long fact finder and then spend one or two hours inputting data into some of the other complex products available on the market.”

The 2004 edition has the ability to add an unlimited number of “cash infusions” that might affect the clients retirement picture, says Torrid. This allows users to model life events like downsizing ones home, inheritances, retirement packages or severance, part-time jobs, real estate rental income, deferred compensation and other payments.

Retirement Savings Planner 2004-Professional Edition runs on any Windows platform and sells for $299, states Turner. The company also markets a Personal Editionaimed at individuals, employees and retirement plan participants who want to estimate their retirement savings and income goalsfor $49.

“A lot of baby boomers are using it,” says Turner of the Personal Edition.

The Professional Edition includes unlimited planning and the ability to save plans to different files, Turner notes. It also offers marketing and personalization features that put an agent/broker/advisors name and information on the opening screen of the program and at the top of any reports printed out.

Further details are available at www.torrid-tech.com.

EAssist Global Solutions has announced eAssist NetAgent 6.1, a suite of integrated software products designed to help reduce the cost of customer interactions.

San Diego-based eAssist says the products give contact centers the ability to provide “prompt, reliable service and support using a combination of e-mail, online chat and telephone.”

The suite contains 3 modular applications:

eAssist NetAgent Email sorts inbound e-mail messages according to topic, then automatically routes them to the customer service representative (CSR) with the appropriate expertise.

eAssist NetAgent Chat enables CSRs to communicate with Web site visitors in real time, handling up to 6 online sessions at once, and allows CSRs to assist customers in filling out forms.

eAssist NetAgent CTI allows calls centers to integrate inbound calls and CSRs desktop phones with NetAgent Chat and NetAgent Email.

“With eAssist NetAgent 6.1, agents have a complete view of the customer they are serving, and organizations have the ability to automatically route, track and report on customer interactions across channels,” says Brad Birnbaum, vice president of Product Strategy and Management at eAssist. As a result, he adds, users can increase service levels, boost agent productivity, and build and extend profitable customer relationships.

Pricing information was not available. More information is available at www.eassist.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, March 19, 2004. Copyright 2004 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.