Insurance Cos. Join for Auto Policy Marketplace

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Insurance giants Kemper, Prudential and The American International Group are banding together to launch a first-of-its-kind auto insurance marketplace that will allow consumers to close 20-minute deals in one-stop Web visits, company officials confirmed last week.


Fusura.com, coined from the words future and insurance, is expected to be running by year's end and is being pegged as the answer to the growing frustration typically associated with online insurance shopping.


Currently consumers face the cumbersome task of having to jump from one Web site to another to compare insurance deals or even having to visit bricks-and-mortar broker sites to view or compare price quotes. They then have to directly contact the carrier of the plan they have selected.


But with Fusura.com, company officials plan not only to offer a full consortium of reputable brand-name insurance carriers, but also to allow buyers to compare different plans, products and prices of leading operators during single online visits.


Ultimately, the buyer will have the option of closing a real-time deal, secure policy and all, using a credit card. For revenue, Fusura.com, Wilmington, DE, will get an undetermined commission on each policy.


"We recognize there is a growing consumer market of people who want to buy their personal insurance online," Kemper chairman/CEO David B. Mathis said. He added that Fusura executives are convinced the company will be able to expand and offer other kinds of coverage. "This venture will provide that market with a comprehensive selection of those products," he said.


The process would start with the consumer logging on to the network and viewing the various plans outlined by the different carriers. After settling on one, the buyer can compare the prices and quotes with those of the other carriers.


If the customer has questions or wants to seek additional advice, he can contact a 24/7 call center staffed by Fusura. Agents can be contacted through e-mail, chat or by phone.


The site will also provide a direct link to all the carriers and will ultimately allow agents to directly link the customer to the selected carrier after all initial information has been gathered and each step is completed.


"The thing you have to remember is we're owned by these insurance companies, so establishing direct links with each and every one of them won't be difficult for us," Fusura.com acting president Rick Bender said.


Ideally, Bender said, each deal would close in an average of about 20 minutes.


Every encounter would also begin with Fusura equipping the consumer with technology aimed at helping them determine their risk-planning needs, then providing them with what it terms "access needs analysis tools" to figure out which products are best suited to their needs.


"Their plan certainly seems feasible," GartnerGroup research director Vincent Oliva said. "Not only will this soon be the trend, but in their case it's not like they're out there mining for new customers. The consumers they'll be going after are the ones that are already conducting financial deals over the Web."


Fusura executives noted that each of the carriers would offer their own plans and provide their own quotes.


"All our research has shown us that not only do our customers prefer dealing with brand names but that they also like to have choices," Bender said. "So, in that respect, this alliance addresses yet another one of the primary demands of our customers. And it does it in a stress-free kind of environment."


The companies will own equal thirds of the new venture, which will operate independently of the founding businesses. A staff of senior-level personnel is being organized to run the new entity. Fusura officials declined to say how many insurance carriers have signed on to be showcased on the site.


In addition to their participation in this venture, Kemper, Prudential and AIG officials all added that their companies would continue to operate and develop their own Web sites.


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