Insurer ploughs millions of pounds into other e-commerce projects

Norwich Union is hedging its bets on the success of Imarket by investing millions of pounds in other e-commerce projects.

Speaking to Insurance Times, John Kitson, NU's new intermediary director, admitted some concern over whether
Imarket would prove successful, given the low level of business passing through the system.

“I was involved with i2i [Imarket's predecessor]. But four years on, there's not a lot of volume. Let's hope Imarket's
past performance isn't a guide to the future. Strategically, I can see the concept being a winner, but it hasn't worked yet, that is my reticence,” Kitson said.
He suggested that a combination of complex technology and “insurers not getting it together” was behind the slow
progress of Imarket. He said that while NU would continue
to back Imarket, the company was also investing money in other e-commerce “infrastructure”, such as e-servicing and
its extranet capabilities.

“Imarket isn't a silver bullet, it is one method of distribution. We need it to up a gear, but e-servicing and extranet are also an answer,” said Kitson.

The company is ploughing over £20m into e-infrastructure, including Imarket,for small commercial business in the
coming years.

The money will initially be targeted package commercial business and later small commercial motor business.

NU is expecting to launch four package products on Imarket through most software houses this year for quotes and new business, and looking to add mid-term adjustments and
renewal functionality in 2007.

Kitson said NU's aim was to be “market leader in the e-world”, although he admitted the company “not there yet”.
“NU will be at the forefront [of e-commerce],” he insisted. “And will be all over it like a rash.”

Last week, Insurance Times reported that Imarket transactions had more than tripled in the past 10 months,
reaching 25,000 in April.