After years of attempting to develop big-ticket tech solutions to improve ease of doing business between brokers and carriers, some of the small things are making a big difference in brokers’ lives.
Over the past decade, Canada’s property and casualty insurance industry has tried – and failed – to achieve an industry-wide, broker-carrier solution called a single-entry, multiple-company interface (SEMCI). The ambitious and elusive goal was to allow brokers to input policyholders’ information into their broker management systems (BMS) and receive insurance quotes back from multiple carriers without having to re-key data.
After spending millions of dollars on the CSIO Portal project, a project that was abandoned in 2006, the industry has since concentrated on what it calls “low-hanging fruit.” That is, carriers and vendors are piloting and offering a number of less ambitious, smaller-scale tech solutions designed to make it easier for brokers to do business with their carriers.
These tech solutions are often right underneath brokers’ noses, but they go unused. Lately, however, brokers have seen a number of carriers start to offer technologies that are helping to make their lives easier – and significantly more paperless.
The Agency Manager (TAM) 12, for example, includes a unique feature called ‘automatic download invoicing.’
“So for the personal lines policy download that we get every day [from the companies], all of the transactions include information about the premium change that’s associated with that item,” said Nancy Hepinstall, technology director of MCT Insurance. “That’s included in the download….
“Now it takes a couple of minutes to complete a transaction. Normally, people in multiple branches would have waited three days for the paper to arrive, look through each paper and enter these transactions manually.”
These same employees are now spending more time talking to clients about policies and coverages. This has improved the brokerage’s retention rates considerably, said Hepinstall.
Three other projects introduced over the past year have had the same effect, brokers say.
Among them, E-Docs has received the most attention in the industry trade press.
E-docs is based on a new XML standard created by the Centre for the Study of Insurance Operations (CSIO) and several carriers are piloting the new technology. Basically, when an insurance company sends down an electronic transaction, called an EDI, through to the BMS, a PDF copy of the policy declaration page that goes to the consumer is automatically downloaded into the BMS.
“Back in the day,” the so-called ‘dec’ page, which describes the contents of the policy, used to be delivered by the carrier to the broker in a paper format that was couriered to a broker’s office. A receptionist at the brokerage would then open and date-stamp the paper. Now it comes automatically through CSIO-net and attaches to that client file in the broker’s BMS, and nobody touches it.
“Huge, huge savings on the carrier side, and on the broker side,” said Wendy Watson, president of the Organization of Real Time Brokers Implementing Technology (ORBiT) in Canada.
Watson listed two other technologies that have each reduced transaction times between brokers and carriers down from around 30 minutes to 10 minutes.
One allows brokers to enter a person’s driver’s license, and then receive electronically all of the information contained in AutoPlus.
“We’re not annoying the consumer by asking a million questions,” said Watson. “We end up validating the information instead of asking them for it. So it brings up drivers, it brings up all of the vehicles, so we actually know what’s really going on, and it makes it a much more pleasant conversation [between the broker and the consumer].”
A similar kind of validation technology, called ‘iClarify,’ is available in home insurance as well. Brokers can type in an address and receive current information about a property, including price and – through Google technology – a current photo.
“You only have to collect 11 data points,” said Watson. “Without that, you can be half an hour just to get a quote. Now it’s down to 10 minutes. That really speeds things up in the broker’s office, and makes it way more efficient.”
Hepinstall said she would like to see some of the automation technology available in personal lines replicated in commercial lines as well, although she acknowledges commercial business is a different breed of animal than one would see in the more automated world of personal lines.
A recent survey conducted by the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO) indicated that brokers are generally pleased with the efforts insurers have made to address technological inefficiencies arising from the interaction between insurers’ back-end systems and broker management systems.