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Insurers lag other companies in the use of technology and e-business, jeopardising their long-term success and their ability to increase shareholder value, new research shows.

The research was conducted by NOP World for IBM Financial Services. NOP questioned senior executives from 27 major financial services companies in the UK, Germany, France and Italy. It found most firms were focused on increasing shareholder value by using technology to make their business processes more efficient and cost effective.

However, many companies, especially insurers, were being held back by their inability to embrace e-enterprise.

IBM e-business executive Alison Spottiswoode said insurers' struggles stemmed from their culture of operating in individual divisions.

She said: "This has left a legacy of different technologies across the organisation, which makes the introduction of new technology difficult."

She added that most executives considered technology to be a tool or an "enabler" when they should see it as a business "driver".

"Technology allows you to do things you couldn't do previously," she said. "If you just see it as an enabler, it restricts what you do."