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Unique Collaboration of General Electric’s Insource, EDS and Western Life to Revolutionize the Old Fashioned Funeral Industry; CARP Endorses Everest funeral planning service Nationally

TORONTO, APRIL 21, 2003 – A new, one-of-a-kind online funeral planning service, designed to meet the demands of aging consumers and revolutionize the $15 billion funeral planning industry was launched today in Canada. Everest – the first nationwide online funeral planning package – represents a unique collaboration of some of North America’s most trusted service providers including General Electric’s Insource LimitedEDS, and Western Life Insurance Company of Canada. With the launch of Everest, for the first time Canadians can pre-plan all of the details of their funerals without having to work with a funeral home. Unbiased advisors and planning counselors help consumers design fully customized and changeable funeral plans that can be implemented at any one of 25,000 funeral homes in North America.

As more baby boomers are planning for their retirements and beyond, a new national poll reveals that fully 73% of Canadians believe pre-planning a funeral is a good idea, however, only 15% have actually done it. The number one reason cited for not pre-planning was the fear of being taken advantage of. Other reasons include a lack of information and confusion, and discomfort with the current process of arranging a funeral. The Canadian results are consistent with extensive research previously conducted in the United States.

“Our research shows a significant gap between those who want to pre-plan and those who actually do pre-plan because consumers experience confusion, anxiety and a lack of trust in the funeral industry today. In short, there is a real disconnect between what the consumer needs and what the industry provides. Not surprising when you are talking about a business that hasn’t changed significantly in a long time,” Everest president Mark Duffey said. “We saw the need to bring both innovation and a new consumer-focused approach.”

CARP – Canada’s Association for the 50-Plus – has given Everest its national endorsement, calling Everest a long overdue service. “CARP is always looking for unique benefits and services for our members. That is why we are pleased to announce Everest. We have endorsed Everest nationally and recommend you find out whether Everest’s services are the right answer for you and your family.”

The first service of this kind, Everest is not associated with any funeral home or funeral product. Everest provides unbiased planning counselors, a detailed planning guide and information to help the consumer understand all their options, make informed decisions, and personalize their plan, anywhere and any way they choose. At death, Everest acts as a liaison to the family to help them implement the details of the plan with the chosen funeral provider. The unique service also combines a 24x7x365 help line, the first ever database of funeral home pricing, and full funding to cover the costs of the funeral plan.

According to the recent poll, 83% of Canadians agree that planning for major life events like funerals is as important as retirement financial planning, and 75% believe that funeral preplanning would significantly reduce hardship on their family at the time of their death. Of those that indicated they had planned, the majority (82%) indicated that they did so to relieve the emotional and financial burden from loved ones.

“As Canadians age, the research shows that people would prefer to deal with all of their arrangements now so that their family doesn’t have to deal with the emotional and financial burden of having to make arrangements on one of the worst days of their lives. At the same time they want to have the option to change those arrangements, whether it’s regarding personalization or location, as circumstances in their lives change. Until now, that has not been possible because the old fashioned way of buying a funeral in advance locks you into a specific funeral home with specific products. Everest changes all of that,” Duffey added.

The average funeral costs between $5,000 and $6,000, but when all of the related costs like travel, accommodations and cemetery expenses are added in, the actual costs run between $7,000 and $10,000. The Everest package includes a minimum of $10,000 of funding which is secured by a whole-life policy issued through Western Life. Any of the funding that is not required to implement the plan is paid to a named beneficiary.

Everest – the first nationwide funeral package – is the result of a unique collaboration of some of North America’s most respected companies. General Electric’s Insource provides Everest with strategy development and product design expertise. EDS provides the technology infrastructure for Everest, including among other things: web hosting, secure electronic storage of funeral planning information and the design and maintenance of a funeral home pricing database. Western Life provides complete, insurance-backed funding, to ensure the financial integrity of the funding included in every Everest Funeral Package. Everest is available now at www.everestfuneral.ca or by calling 1-866-400-4945.

For more information, please contact:
Megan Matthews
Veritas Communications Inc.
416-482-2248 ext. 229