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Volume 29, Issue 1

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Jon Seals

WASHINGTON – Extensive nationwide research conducted by the agency-company council of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) has found that small business owners (SBOs) strongly prefer independent insurance agents as they make choices in today's online world, but agents must take steps to continue to demonstrate their value and be more engaged online.

The research results are part of "Small Business Insurance & The Internet—The Voice of the Commercial Lines Customer," the latest project of PIA and The PIA Partnership, designed to provide independent insurance agents with tools to meet the new challenges posed by online providers and direct writers.

"Our results affirm that while small business owners continue to greatly value the professional advice and personal service of an independent agent, there is an expectation that their agent will be more capable of online interaction concerning their accounts and that the agency will have a fully credible online presence," said PIA National Executive Vice President & CEO Mike Becker.

"This is both an affirmation and a wake-up call for agents," Becker said. "Commercial lines customers want agents as experts who are backed by the efficiency of the Internet."

The research project included qualitative focus group research, involving business owners and insurance decision-makers, conducted in multiple cities by research consulting firm The Pert Group; and quantitative research involving an online panel provided by Survey Sampling International, LLC (SSI), consisting of a random national sampling of 1,000 SBOs with companies of 50 employees or less.

Agents the Clear Choice

The research by PIA and The PIA Partnership also found that what is evolving over time is how some customers would like to see what they value delivered when it comes to their insurance in today's online business environment. This presents new opportunities for independent agents in how they reach and serve their customers.

The research found that choosing a Professional Independent Agent continues to be the clear preference for small business insurance decision-makers. The attributes that are most important to small businesses when it comes to their insurance are those offered by independent agents. These include:

  • Belief in the person or company
  • Having a person who understands my business
  • Quick service response
  • Personal attention
  • Providing me with confidence that I am making the right insurance decisions

"Much has been said and written about plans by companies such as Google attempting to challenge the dominance of independent insurance agents in commercial lines," said PIA National President Richard A. Clements. "That's why we asked commercial lines customers what they want. We found they want what we provide, and that they also want us to provide more. As for competition, I say what agents have always said: 'Bring it on!'"

The research found that just as agents have adapted to change in the past, that adaptability is being called for again today as SBOs and decision-makers routinely use the Internet for shopping, evaluating and improving the efficiency with which they communicate and gain and share information.

"Some studies backed by direct writers and captives had contended that buyers of small and midsize business owners policies (BOP) wanted to purchase such coverages online," said PIA Partnership Chairman John Petrucci. "We decided that a more objective picture of buyer preferences was required." 

"The message is clear," said Petrucci. "The Internet is here to stay. It is not the opponent of agents. But while it can be a source for competition, it can also provide an opportunity for agents when they use it to their own advantage. Responding is about evolution, not revolution.  The changes taking place in the marketplace provide an excellent opportunity for independent agents to increase their dominance in the CL market, but the one thing that is not an option for independent agents is inaction."

Among other findings:

  • In order to be competitive, independent agents must have a full, credible online presence.
  • Small business owners most value agents with professional, industry-specific knowledge.
  • Most small business owners who shop insurance online still lack confidence in themselves to make ideal insurance choices, and they want help.
  • Agents need to sell their value. Without more frequent demonstration of value, alternatives like bypassing the agent by going online will encroach further.

The research showed that even when the insurance process starts online, small business owners still want to depend on an agent to check and confirm, as well as validate and question assumptions. They overwhelmingly prefer such personal contact throughout the transaction.

Detailed research results, along with agent-specific recommendations and tools developed through this research, are being provided to all members of PIA nationwide by The PIA Partnership. 

This project is a follow-up to The PIA Partnership's "Voice of the Customer—Personal Lines," an extensive nationwide survey of personal lines insurance customers. It also clearly showed that consumers want what professional insurance agents offer: expert advice and counsel, personalized attention and interaction, the ability to offer comprehensive protection to meet individual needs and excellent "relationship-based" customer service.

The PIA Partnership, originally established as the Company Council of Executive Officers (CCEO) in 1996, is a group of insurance companies that work collaboratively with PIA National to conduct research and develop tools and resources designed to benefit professional independent insurance agents.

Current PIA Partnership companies include:  Encompass Insurance; Erie Insurance; Harleysville Insurance; Liberty Mutual Insurance; MetLife Auto & Home; Progressive Insurance; Selective Insurance Group; State Auto Group; The Central Insurance Companies; The Hanover Insurance Group; The Hartford; and The Motorists Insurance Group.

Founded in 1931, PIA is a national trade association that represents member insurance agents and their employees who sell and service all kinds of insurance, but specialize in coverage of automobiles, homes and businesses. PIA members are Local Agents Serving Main Street America SM. PIA's web address is www.pianet.com.

The Business Continuity Institute, have recently published the BCI 20/20 UK Group White Paper entitled The Resilience Challenge for The Business Continuity Profession. In the foreword, Bill Crichton FBCI, identifies the necessity to,

“…raise the profile of business continuity and resilience among business leaders, while also demonstrating the increasing strategic value that business continuity and resilience practitioners will be able to bring to their organisations in the future.”

The document continues to identify necessities for business continuity practitioners to embrace resilience in order that, ‘organisations get to where they want to go (strategy) and do so in the manner of a desire (reputation, preservation of value)’. The paper goes on to identify the place of business continuity as integral to protective disciplines and in particular identifies the needs to show an increase in, ‘cross boundary collaboration, understanding of networked risks, and flexibility’. In order to achieve resilience within organisations six key practices are identified within the report:

“Become more aware of high-level goals; adopt interdisciplinary and cross functional engagement; communicate with other ‘protective disciplines’ in organisations; understand risks that may be overlooked by traditional practice; increase adaptive capacity and agility; and provide leadership.”

The author of the paper is Patrick Alcantara DBCI, an alumnus of Bucks New University, and here at Bucks we are glad to be able to offer the MSc Organisational Resilience programme to enhance the learning, professional skills and understanding of all business continuity practitioners (as well as practitioners in other relevant resilience professions) in order to meet this 20/20 vision of the BCI. Entry to the programme can be made either by previous undergraduate qualifications or by relevant experience in Business Continuity, Risk Management, Security Management or Emergency/Crisis Management.

The next presentation of this part-time, distance learning, MSc Organisational Resilience at Bucks New University commences in October 2015 and places are available for this start date. Please visit http://bucks.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate/MU1OGR9/ or e-mail owen.gregory@bucks.ac.uk for more information.

The BCI paper can be found at http://www.bcifiles.com/8thReport.pdf

The first payments are being made to policyholders taking part in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Hurricane Sandy Claims Review, the agency announced today.

The payments represent additional funds owed to National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policyholders who filed flood insurance claims after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

“We want to ensure our policyholders are paid what they are owed under their policies. This claims review gives us a chance to take another look,” said Roy Wright, Deputy Associate Administrator for FEMA’s Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration. “I encourage policyholders to request a review if they believe their Hurricane Sandy claim was underpaid for any reason.”

In May 2015, FEMA began contacting 142,000 NFIP policyholders who filed claims resulting from Hurricane Sandy, offering to review their claim files. To date, more than 10,000 policyholders have entered the process. FEMA authorized the insurance companies writing NFIP policies to make the first additional payments to policyholders whose claims have been reviewed through this process.

The deadline to request a review is Sept. 15, 2015. After initial request, the entire process usually takes around 90 days to complete.

To be eligible for the review, policyholders must have experienced flood damage between Oct. 27, 2012 and Nov. 6, 2012 as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Policyholders may call the NFIP’s Hurricane Sandy claims center at 866-337-4262 to request a review. Before contacting the claims center, policyholders are asked to have their flood insurance carrier name and policy number at hand.

Alternately, policyholders can go online to download a form requesting a review. The downloaded form may be filled out and emailed to FEMA-sandyclaimsreview@fema.dhs.gov to start the review process. 

For individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability and use 711 or VRS, please call 866-337-4262.  For individuals using a TTY, please call 800-462-7585 to begin the review process.

The Sandy claims review process is designed to be simple for the policyholder, and does not require paid legal assistance. Several nonprofit service providers are ready to offer free advice and answer questions policyholders may have. A list of these advocacy groups can be found on the claims review web page.

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate all hazards.

Follow FEMA online at www.fema.gov/blog, www.twitter.com/fema, www.facebook.com/fema and www.youtube.com/fema.  Also, follow Administrator Craig Fugate's activities at www.twitter.com/craigatfema.

The social media links provided are for reference only. FEMA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies or applications.

Monday, 10 August 2015 00:00

Shadow IT: Worse Than We Thought

The enterprise has many reasons to convert legacy infrastructure into a private cloud: lower costs, greater flexibility and scalability. These are all perfectly valid reasons, but it seems that a key driver is the rise of shadow IT.

According to new research from Cisco, shadow IT (and I’m still waiting for someone to print the obvious acronym here) is much worse than previously suspected. A recent survey of data users showed that the use of unauthorized applications is 15 to 20 times higher than what many CIOs believe. On average, the report states, IT departments estimate their companies utilize about 50 cloud services while in fact the number is 730. And the discrepancy between reality and perception is growing quickly: One year ago, it was 7x, within six months it had jumped to 10x. At this rate, the number of shadow apps could top 1,000 for the average enterprise by the end of the year.

...

http://www.itbusinessedge.com/blogs/infrastructure/shadow-it-worse-than-we-thought.html

(TNS) — An active shooter in a school — it’s everyone’s worst nightmare.

And, lately, FBI statistics show, it has been happening more often. A generic scenario goes something like this:

The shooter enters the building through the front doors and moves through the lobby. He — because FBI data show it’s almost always a he — is looking for targets. In the lobby he fires off a couple of shots.

Panic ensues.

People run for cover, and teachers work to follow practiced safety drills. Everyone is screaming and many are calling 911.

Meanwhile, the shooter moves to another floor, or another building, looking for more people to terrorize.

More often than not — in 67 percent of cases — the incident is over before police are able to engage the shooter.

That means every minute matters.

...

http://www.emergencymgmt.com/safety/Gunshot-detection-tracking-system.html

(TNS) - The likelihood of a below-average hurricane season is even higher than what forecasters first predicted in May, but whether the sluggish forecast and Florida’s 10-year lull signals a permanent shift in weather patterns is doubtful.

An updated storm forecast released Thursday by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center upped the chances of a quieter than normal 2015 Atlantic hurricane season to 90 percent — the highest confidence level given since seasonal hurricane outlooks were first issued in 1998 and an increase from the previous 70 percent prediction.

The new report, which was timed to coincide with the beginning of the more active storm months of August through October, also reduced the number of storms expected this season. Overall, six to 10 named storms are forecast, down from May’s 6 to 11.

...

http://www.emergencymgmt.com/disaster/New-Seasonal-Hurricane-Forecast-a-Change-From-May-Prediction.html

Monday, 10 August 2015 00:00

Top Ten Ways to Use OpenStack for Storage

In the first article in this series, we explained what OpenStack is. Now we are following it up with some tips for those thinking about implementing it for specific tasks. Here are ten popular ways to use this open source cloud computing software for storage purposes:

...

http://www.enterprisestorageforum.com/storage-management/top-ten-ways-to-use-openstack-for-storage.html

Monday, 10 August 2015 00:00

BCI: The value of standards

The value of standards

There have been many standards produced that support the work we do – ISO22301 on business continuity management, BS65000 on organizational resilience and ISO22317 on business impact analysis. But what are these standards for, what do they achieve and what value can we place on them?

BSI note, in their latest report, The economic contribution of standards to the UK economy, that "the development of standards is driven by a demand from industry" and "help to solve fundamental process, organisational and technical problems, which if left unresolved, could result in inefficient market functioning and poor economic outcomes." Or, to put it another way, they make our organizations more streamlined and therefore more efficient.

But can you actually put a value on this? Yes, according to the report which was based on independent research conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), whose analysis found a positive and significant contribution of standards to productivity – supporting 37.4% of annual labour productivity growth in the UK economy over the period 1921 to 2013, which translates into approximately 28.4% of annual GDP growth. To put an actual monetary figure on that, standardization at a national level would be associated with approximately £8.2 billion of the £29.0 billion of GDP growth recorded in 2013 (2014 prices).

That's quite an extraordinary finding, so if your business continuity management programme is not currently aligned to ISO22301 then you might want to consider doing so. And where better to start than reading through the Business Continuity Institute's Good Practice Guidelines that are fully aligned to the standard.

The report does note that standards do not boost productivity growth exclusively. Instead standards have a symbiotic and complementary role in driving productivity along with other factors such as improvements to education and advancements in technology. Standards support productivity growth through a variety of mechanisms such as by enhancing organisational efficiency, boosting trade and facilitating innovation.

The survey also highlighted the existing capacity of businesses to become more involved in the standards development process. Over two-thirds (68%) of businesses surveyed were not involved in the standards development process, yet the evidence showed that participating in developing standards makes it more likely that a company experiences benefits from using standards. Those who reported they are highly involved in the standards development process are the most likely to report that they experience a net benefit from standards.

Members of the BCI play an important role in standards development with several of them on the relevant committees. You don't need to be on a committee to play a role however, you can also get involved by providing feedback when standards are in development and 'out for comment'. If you would like to get involved with this, then keep an eye out on our website and social media channels or by subscribing to our newsletter.

Monday, 10 August 2015 00:00

Your digital shadow

Many people move about daily through the Internet in a completely natural and uninhibited manner and make intensive use of the many opportunities that the World Wide Web has to offer. Nowadays it is almost always available thanks to the ever faster evolving technical possibilities and the number of devices that constantly communicate with the Internet is also ever increasing.

But it is not only devices but also such activities as have become standard use, which make the digital universe explode: emails, SMS, video files, MP3 music file downloads, online banking, cloud computing and, last but not least, interactivity through social media, all of them ensure that the amount of information that each individual consumes and produces, rapidly increases.

...

http://blog.krollontrack.co.uk/concepts-explained/your-digital-shadow/

Most firms are not doing enough to ensure their resilience to cyber attacks, a new study has claimed – although many may actually think the opposite is true.

According to Accenture, which published the results of a survey of almost 1,000 C-suite executives on July 29th, almost nine in ten businesses (88 per cent) consider their cyber defence strategy to be “robust, understood and fully functional”.

What’s more, a similar figure (86 per cent) said they actively measured their firms’ cyber resilience to determine whether or not improvements were required.

However, just over half (53 per cent) of respondents told pollsters they had a business continuity plan in place that was refreshed as and when necessary.

Just 45 per cent had produced threat models around existing and planned business operations in order to deliver rapid responses to cyber attacks, and only 38 per cent had documented the relationships between their technological and operational assets to fully understand the risks and dependencies within their organisations.

Finally, just nine per cent of respondents said their firms tested their cyber resilience “on a continuous basis”, using inward-directed attacks and intentional failures to gauge their ability to respond to real-world incidents effectively.

Brian Walker, managing director of Accenture Technology Strategy, said the data “clearly shows that companies by and large have more work to do”.

He added that chief executives should work closely with the rest of their leadership teams, as well as with their boards of directors, to genuinely bolster their firms’ business continuity efforts.

“They cannot prevent an attack or failure, but they can mitigate the damage it can cause by taking steps to make their business more resilient, agile and fault-tolerant,” Mr Walker concluded.

Complex data recovery requires expertise. Speak to the data recovery industry pioneers at Kroll Ontrack for free advice to investigate options to recover from any data loss type, system or cause.

From:: http://www.krollontrack.co.uk/company/press-room/data-recovery-news/firms-not-doing-enough-to-achieve-cyber-resilience,-says-accenture633.aspx