King of Fighters XII Sticks With 2-D

After a few rather sub-par attempts to bring the series “up to date” in 3-D, SNK Playmore has finally learned their lesson. Not only is the next entry going 2-D, after 14 years, the sprites are being redrawn in high resolution. The sprites look incredible. Kyo is especially apparent, and the small changes to certain moves such as Kim’s air kick are a nice touch for the die hard fans who have supported this series since its inception on the AES and MVS hardware.

While the visual changes are stunning, nothing has been noted as far as gameplay alterations. As much as the franchise needed a visual make over, it’s also in need of a fresh idea to bolster the gameplay. The Strikers, a fourth character allowed to jump in to land a quick assault, was the last notable shift towards something different. Here’s hoping the team can pull this off as well as the have the visual style.

Bank Entry Heats Up Agency Competition.

National Underwriter Life & Health-Financial Services Edition February 1, 1999 | Jaffe, Alfred I.

While the merger of Citicorp and Travelers was certainly the most dramatic and well-publicized event demonstrating the amalgamation of financial services under one corporate umbrella-a red one in this case-it wasn’t the only such development in recent times. Numerous giant insurance entities have applied for federal charters from the Office of Thrift Supervision to sell various banking products and services.

Some time ago, USI Insurance Services-the sixth-largest U.S. broker with more than a quarter of a billion dollars in revenues-formed an alliance with Chase Manhattan. While Chase doesn’t own USI, they engage in joint ventures.

As an example, a brokerage office in New York City is named Chase USI. It caters largely to what one may term “a modest level of the mid-sized commercial market”–typically clients developing about $25,000 or so in annual premiums. Many of these are probably Chase banking customers turned over to Chase USI for cross-selling.

In a different environment, I met a chap at a recent CPCU meeting. He introduced himself as being with such-and-such a bank, naming a medium-large regional bank, but by no means one of the giants. In my naivete, I asked him if he was the risk manager of the bank. No, he was the manager of one of the bank’s wholly-owned insurance agencies, of which there were 35 across the state. here chase banking online

These agencies were the product of an acquisition program, and they currently develop annual revenues of about $50 million. That would indicate to me about 15 employees in an average-sized office. I was told that the overall mix of business was about 70 percent commercial, although less than that in the smaller towns.

They cater to the bread-and-butter commercial accounts in the small cities, most of which have populations of less than 50,000. My take is that the typical commercial account develops somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000 to $15,000 in annual premiums.

I was given to understand that the bank’s acquisition program has far-reaching ambitions, and they hope to become much larger in due time. It strikes me that to engage in such a large-scale aggressive acquisition program, it is almost inevitable that many of the deals are made with top-dollar valuations. Either that, or there are a lot of agency owners who just want to throw in the towel.

I’m inclined to bet on the former. And I’ll also bet that somewhat similar acquisition programs are taking place in a number of other localities. website chase banking online

What does all this mean to independent agents and brokers throughout the country? We know that a consolidation process has been going on for some time now. While the number of agencies has been falling, the overall level of employment in agencies has been pretty stable.

And while the amount of business by independent agencies dealing with the large national companies has been dropping over the years-reflecting the loss of personal business to direct writers and captive agency companies-the amount of business being done with regional agency companies has been on the upturn. Does that tell us something about the corporate cultures or service orientation of the large versus the smaller companies?

Bank-owned agencies represent another competitive aspect of the business. We have to recognize that in the minds of John and Jane Q. Public, banks represent trust and solidity. That certainly gives banks a psychological edge in competition.

In addition, having baking contact with business enables the banks to engage in cross-selling of services, even with legitimate corporate “firewalls” in place. And there always will be the feeling on the part of the banking client that buying insurance from a bank-related entity will serve them well in banking transactions even when scrupulous care will be taken by the bank to avoid even the appearance of tie-in sales. Human nature being what it is, such scrupulous care will not always be taken.

Financial services reform legislation died last year in the Senate. Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, has reintroduced it. But regardless of whether a reform bill passes, banks will continue to buy up insurance agencies, with appropriate “firewalls” in place.

This may have a profound competitive effect on the agencies whose core business-smallish commercial accounts-becomes the target of bank-related agencies.

With personal lines always subject to direct writer and captive agency competition, and with large commercial accounts now becoming the target of some of the second-tier large brokers, many mid-sized agencies and brokers have their work cut out for them. As if the ridiculousness of the soft market weren’t enough! Please pass the aspirin.

And that’s my viewpoint!

Jaffe, Alfred I.