Small to medium-sized insurance providers are falling behind in the race to get their services on-line, according to new independent research.

The survey, commissioned by Compaq but conducted independently by Taylor Nelson Sofres, found that while 75% of firms stated IT was critical to success, just seven per cent saw the internet as a current business issue.

Marisa Kacary, marketing manager at Compaq's small and medium business group, said: "Smaller insurance firms need to at least consider an e-business strategy now if they expect to compete in the future."

Key findings include the surprising fact that none of the companies surveyed considered IT to be their most important business issue.
- Almost a third (27%) commented on a lack of time focus on IT strategy
- Only a fifth of those surveyed (19%) considered e-commerce as an issue when looking at all the IT and computer systems issues of their organisation
- Only 17% are planning to acquire internet access by the end of 1999 (as an upgrade, replacement, addition or first-time user).

Kacary added: "The internet puts any business, small or large, on equal footing, as the internet offers service, rather than size, to users.

"While smaller insurance providers are taking their marketing on-line, they need to address the issue of service to their policyholders, as well as selling directly to customers."