As banking, insurance, and the Internet collide, technology vendors are developing Web sites specifically for banks hoping to sell insurance.
"Many financial institutions are interested in offering customers insurance but don't have the expertise," said J. Russell Reid, president of InsureZone.com, a company that operates the insurance aspects of three bank Web sites in the United States. "We provide their customers access to our marketplace."
InsureZone, which also offers a call center, sells commercial property and casualty insurance, including workers' compensation and commercial auto. It expects to add personal auto to its menu by the end of July.
The call center is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. central standard time and offers such features as an IP Chat mechanism through which applicants can ask a representative questions live over the Internet.
"The applicant could also fill out a form and have a representative call back immediately," Mr. Reid said. Quotes are offered in less than 24 hours for commercial lines and will be offered instantly for personal auto insurance, he said.
InsureZone offers insurance lines from the Hartford, Kemper Insurance, Safeco, Chubb, and Travelers. It can list other carriers chosen by the bank as well, Mr. Reid said.
The sites, though operated by InsureZone, are branded with the bank's name.
"We'll customize anything for them," Mr. Reid said. "The Web design is not a template. It is designed to fit the look of the bank's Web site."
Selling insurance on bank Web sites has provoked some skepticism.
"Most people don't think of a bank as a place to buy insurance," said Edward M. Liddy, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Allstate Corp. in Northbrook, Ill., "and there is no proof that the Internet is going to be a key sales channel for insurance in the immediate future. We have great brand recognition, and we're going to sell policies through various distributions, especially through our agents.
"At this stage, selling through banks or on bank Web sites is not that important."
InsureZone is not the only company trying to persuade banks to use its system. The e-commerce company Allfinanz, which has dual headquarters in Dublin and New York, also has three banks as direct clients, including Toronto-Dominion. Allfinanz offers life products from Travelers Life and Annuity, Life of Virginia, First Colony, and Reinsurance Group of America.
InsureZone expects to generate about $20 million of revenue and show a profit by yearend, according to John Pergande, its chairman. Allfinanz would not comment on its financial performance.