Technology is changing the marketplace for group life, annuitiesand voluntary benefits even as price keeps insurerson the lookout for cost reductions and improved efficiencies.

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Related: 10 stips for staying relevant in a changingindustry

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That’s according to a reporton business and technology trends from Novarica, which findscompetition is intensifying as insurers look for ways to betteremploy technology, contain costs and boost efficiency throughoutthe process as they seek to attract, retain and serve clients whilestill operating profitably.

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Tech is the big mover and shaker, from self-service capabilitiesfor agents, plan sponsors and customers to educational and planningtools.

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In addition, carriers’ systems need to be updated to deal withfaster product development and accommodate price and productchanges. Mobile technology is also playing a role, from socialmedia to communicate with customers and even, to a limited degree,to investigate claims (although compliance and reportingrequirements limit what can be done).

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And while there are plenty of new technology platforms, theycould even mask the need to update outmoded systems, since, thereport says, “The solutions frequently have their origins in whatare now legacy client/server and Web-based technologies that arepoorly supported and for which the documentation may belimited.”

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Related: Outdated tech, thinking cost companies billions inproductivity

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When combined with new functionality requirements driven byexternal requirements, it added, such as likely changes to the ACAin years to come, carriers are looking at a future that willrequire considerable investment in technology to replace systemsthat will not be able to keep up with the rapidly changinglandscape.

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Another reason systems will have to change is the emerging needto personalize, rather than collectivize, how participants aretreated. While previous systems operated around a participantcensus, voluntary benefits are increasingly highlighting the needto be able to build the group from the individual participant level— the inverse of legacy systems. This too will requiremodernization.

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Then there’s the question of cost, as “[p]lan sponsors continueto be very price conscious, which puts pressure on insurers toreduce the cost and improve the efficiency of claims, documentcreation and management, and to some extent financial systems.”

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Yet another factor in the changing climate is the emergence ofprivate exchanges as a new distribution channel for voluntaryproducts. While enrollment, the report said, “is modest to date,”changes to the Affordable Care Act could bring about substantialchanges in the future.

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