The power of the internet to transform insurance is phenomenal said Andy Williams, general manager, IBM Global Insurance. "E-business is now the only business," he added.

By way of illustration, he said that in America insurance transaction costs have fallen dramatically for those who sell over the internet. "It costs $18 (£11) to sell insurance conventionally; $8 (£5) to sell direct over the phone; and 45 cents (27p) to sell via the internet."