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Answer Financial Thrives Online

SAFECO is latest carrier to join the online distributor.

While many Net-based insurance distributors have struggled, Answer Financial is succeeding with a consumer/affiliate distribution hybrid.

Answer Financial (Encino, CA) , which markets products directly to consumers over the Web through affiliate relationships with credit unions and employers, and through private-label sites (as is the case with automotive direct marketer JC Whitney), recently announced that Seattle-based SAFECO has also chosen to distribute products through its site,

Answer Financial's Steve Kroll, senior vice president, marketing, says the success stems from its combination of online functionality and its relationships with well-known insurance brands—including SAFECO, Progressive, AIG and Cigna, among others—and with its affiliate relationships with employers. "In many cases employees can click directly through the corporate intranet" to Answer, Kroll says. "Employees will be more likely to use a service their company has endorsed."

Answer Financial's affiliate relationships are important to the company's success because most consumers have not heard about the site, says James Van Dyke, research director, financial services at Jupiter Media Metrix (New York). "They may have a great site but not many people visit it. If a site doesn't receive at least 70,000 unique visitors a month, we don't monitor it." However, many Answer Financial customers reach its services through companies' intranets, possibly skewing the user numbers.

Greg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology. View Full Bio

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