Step By Step To SEMCI

For years agents have soughtand carriers have talkedaboutimplementation of standardized agency-carrier interface.

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Such interface would allow complete applications to be submittedto several insurers with a keystroke. Those policies could be ratedand a quote from each company returned in a few minutes. Somewherealong the way the term SEMCI (single-entry, multiple-carrierinterface) was coined to describe this concept.

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The importance of SEMCI was brought home recently when the AUGIE(ACORD User Groups Information Exchange) survey indicated thattraining and keeping up with technology are the independent agentsbiggest challenges. Between initial training of new personnel andretraining of existing personnel to use upgrades of the numeroussystems needed to keep essential records, manage agency workflowsand communicate with the carriers they represent, automationeducation has become a big agency expense.

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Similarly, half of the responding agents reported that duplicatedata entry is the biggest time waster. Not only does the data entryitself take time, but checking, re-keying and correcting mistakesmakes the processing even more inefficient. And for this effort,agents want more than just submission capabilities in a real-timeenvironment; they want companies to leverage technologies toprovide service transactions as well.

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Pressure also is coming from policyholders. The Internet hasbrought us into an age of immediate response. If a customer canclick onto a Web site and order an automobile at 2 a.m. from thecomfort of his home, why cant he add that car to his insurancepolicy at the same time in the same way? If he can pick up the carthe next day, hell certainly be unwilling to wait several days toknow that his insurance is valid and to know what it will cost.

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Agents, brokers and carriers must keep up with customerexpectations, and that takes sophisticated technology on all sides.It also takes commitment to pushing and using new standards. At theheart of it though, it takes embracing the SEMCI concept andworking to make it a reality for everyone in the insurance valuechain.

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At The Hartford, we were first in the marketplace with a batchSEMCI upload for commercial lines, and have implemented a batchpersonal lines upload as well. We also support download for bothpersonal and commercial lines with all viable agency managementsystem vendors. With regard to real-time SEMCI, we pilotedreal-time quoting capability two years ago. Generally speaking,though, SEMCI is a strategy that most carriers support in concept,but few have broken through. Why is this?

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For most carriers during the past two years, SEMCI has taken abackseat to proprietary implementations on both the personal andcommercial lines sides of the house. It remains a challenge toimplement real-time SEMCI on a large scale. Immaturity of ACORDstandards, limitations of the agency management systems, and delaysof agency adoption of software upgrades all contribute to a slowrate of implementation in the marketplace.

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But however immature the technology, agents have highexpectations in the SEMCI area. The critical first step is toimplement systems that fully utilize the ACORD XML standards forreal-time processing. These standards define agent-company serviceevent interactions and the information each party needs to fulfillthem. The most frequent sales and service events for commercial andpersonal lines of business have already been defined; more are onthe way.

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The major stumbling block with small commercial business is theimmaturity of the technology to effectively handle “company-unique”information (including underwriting questions) within the agencymanagement system environment. We continue to work towards abreakthrough in this area, through the maturation of ServiceProvider eXtensions (SPX), an ACORD XML standard.

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This lets agents and brokers collect common information once.And, since companies define and publish their unique datacollection and editing requirements using the SPX standard,agent/broker systems that support the standard are up-to-date.Theres no more back-and-forth communications in what sometimesseems like the endless circle of “I need this one more piece ofinformation to process this application.”

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Acting together, carriers and agents can hasten the realizationof SEMCI for all of us, letting us reap the benefits of lowercosts, better service, consistency and faster turnaround ofbusiness transactions. In this way, we can position ourselves tosatisfy the expectations of customers.

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Lisa Cox is senior vice president of eBusiness at TheHartford, which is a member of the Agents Council for Technology(ACT). Opinions expressed in this column may not be reflective ofthe entire ACT membership.

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The Agents Council for Technology is a group of agents,companies, vendors, user groups and associations assembled by theAlexandria, Va.-based Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers ofAmerica to promote and facilitate the use of effective technologysolutions and business processes within the independent agencysystem.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Property &Casualty/Risk & Benefits Management Edition, December 30, 2002.Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serialpublication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as anindependent work may be held by the author.


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