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eAgency Puts Insurance on the BlackBerry

CHICAGO -- Application service provider (ASP) eAgency is taking its business outside the PC and onto Blackberry-powered mobile devices, after a two-month development effort with Sun Microsystems and Research in Motion . The announcement came Tuesday evening, during the RIM Wireless Enterprise Symposium.

Newport Beach, Calif.-based ASP eAgency caters to independent insurance agents, most of whom work from their home or small offices with no access to IT support. The company said the ability to automate the sales process will provide an invaluable service to those who spend most of their time visiting customers.

Called Nice Office Wireless, the application provides services including customer relationship management (CRM), claims status information and insurance form services over a BlackBerry-powered device. The ASP said its market includes approximately 2.5 million independent insurance agents in the U.S.

"I think they're dying, because they're always on the cell phone. They can't get anyone on the phone, they can't get the data," said Chuck Cronin, who took the CEO reins of the company Monday after 30 years in the insurance industry.

Now, instead of going online and downloading forms from the eAgency Web site, agents can call up the information from their mobile devices, and then either e-mail or fax the form to the customer. Customer information can be called up immediately, as can underwriting or commission status.

Nice Office is the kind of application that Research in Motion (RIM), manufacturer of the BlackBerry device and developer of the software, said is needed to meet demands for industry-specific sectors.

David Heit, a RIM senior product manager, said that while there are many third-party vendors who provide BlackBerry applications for CRM and sales force automation, there are not many that target specific verticals.

"These are the kind of applications that are just starting to identify themselves in the market," he said. "Different people have different needs, and I think you'll see more of these niche products in the future."

Because eAgency is a private company, Cronin wouldn't give specific customer numbers, but said the ASP service has between 800 and1,000 subscribers. With "significant funding" and access to the sales force of partners like RIM and Sun, he expects his product to grab a lot of attention within the insurance industry.



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