In the world of IT, there are many things that keep CIOs up at night: security, privacy, agility, and a bunch of other (very relevant) buzz words. For me, however, the biggest issue is integration.
The world of excess and surplus lines agents, carriers, and wholesaler/brokers is full of data entry redundancy, mostly caused by lack of integration. One of the reasons integration isn’t happening full scale is lack of integration points. Fortunately, one thing that’s not missing is lack of willingness, so hope is abundant.
The policy lifecycle in my world is the same as anyone else’s, except that we have more touch points along the value chain.
For example, agents communicate with one or more MGAs, who communicate with many carriers. Those communications happen along transactional boundaries for things like multi-carrier indications, quoting, binding, and issuing policies (among others).
All the while, much of the same policyholder and risk information is passed along, usually re-entered. There’s the problem statement—and it is very well known and documented. Interestingly, the answer is equally well known and documented.
Systems integrate through data communications. Nothing new there. Standards exist that specify what data is shared for each of the transactions we need (i.e., ACORD).
In addition, vendors have solutions that enable us to communicate with agents and carriers (and we can build these ourselves) through various means. If I have the standards, the software, the communication means, and cooperation, what’s the problem?
The problems are simply that many systems don’t provide the required services and don’t support the standards. By “systems” I mean that all along the value chain: our systems, agency systems, and carrier systems.
To remedy this on our end, we’re building our own web services around the vendors. In doing so, we’re opening the lines of communication to the “outside world” (i.e., our business partners). It sounds so simple, yet for many companies, it simply hasn’t happened yet. Once the door is open, so to speak, we’ll be able to exchange information with any partner that supports the same standards.
I recently attended the American Association of Managing General Agents (AAMGA) technical conference, where I saw members of the E&S Working Group talk about the “war on key strokes.” That group, as much or more than any other, can lead the effort because they know who’s involved and can take action to enable integration.
As an MGA and carrier, the company I work for is joining this fight by building the bridges to our partners, and I know many others are doing the same. All the pieces are in place: standards, software, communications, and willingness. The rest is a simple matter of making it happen. By “simple,” I mean not impossible.
As the industry connects the dots by integrating systems, substantial benefits immediately arise:
- Time savings by eliminating redundant key strokes.
- More accurate data due to less re-typing, leading to reduced errors and omissions problems.
- Individuals in the value chain who can concentrate on their role in the chain, instead of being data entry experts.
- A reduced overall cost of doing business because of the efficiencies gained.
Thanks to the efforts of many people spanning the insurance value chain and brought together by standards organizations, the integration problem is getting easier to solve. As companies create integration points, the biggest problem on my mind becomes smaller and smaller.