09 January 2008
Commercial insurance brokers will have benefited over the last 12 months from the continued expansion of the number of participating insurers and the product range available via the imarket portal. Property Owners is the class which has been the main area of development in recent weeks; Allianz has joined R&SA in offering quotations for property owners insurance via the imarket website.
However brokers who use the website to gain quotations are missing out on the full operational and cost saving benefits that imarket can deliver. Some brokers may be more than happy just to obtain quotes this way; certainly they are able to secure quotes from a range of insurers from a single data input. But that is all they are achieving.
If a quotation is accepted then it will generally mean further re-keying of data into their administration system with all the associated cost and time not to mention the potential for an increase in the error rate. The negative feedback I receive regarding imarket almost without exception comes from brokers who have only used the portal's website in this manner. It remains very much the case that the real benefits of the portal can be secured from trading on a full integrated basis.
Integration is where imarket is accessed directly via the broker's administration system. It opens up various possibilities. Re-keying of the risk and client data is avoided with closing instructions and documentation being delivered via the system. It becomes a whole new world, providing a clear marketing advantage over brokers still struggling with outdated operational inefficiencies. An added benefit, that cannot be ignored, is that the premiums for integrated products often carry a rating advantage.
However, the frustrating aspect faced by many brokers is the fact that only two of the various insurance broker software houses have so far made such facilities available to their users – Acturis and Sirius. From the latest information I have, Acturis remain the clear leaders having developed seven product lines with up to seven insurers. Sirius currently offer three product lines with up to six participating insurers. In both cases the choice is not as wide as is available on the imarket website where there are 13 product lines and two more supporting insurers, but as integrated products from both software houses cover Shops, Tradesmen and Offices and Surgeries a large section of the commercial insurance market is already catered for. In addition Acturis users can also transact Pubs, Restaurants and Hotels, Property Owners, Hair and Beauty, and Working from Home.
So the big question remains, why have other software houses not yet developed their systems to handle commercial insurance business on a fully integrated basis with the imarket portal?
When you consider that imarket has been up and running for over two years, is it unreasonable to expect that by now all brokers should be able to reap the full benefits that can deliver? Is this another example of insurance IT development taking far too long to be fully delivered? It is too easy to lay the blame at the door of software houses. It would appear that in the main, insurers took the decision that it would be preferable to focus their initial imarket development on one or, in some cases two, software houses. Only when they were satisfied that everything was in order, would they then involve in the wider market. The fact that Acturis and Sirius were involved in this initial development could indicate that at the time they both showed a greater keenness to become involved.
The good news is that work is now progressing on rolling out with SSP, Open GI and Insurecom. Let us therefore look forward to 2008 being the year when imarket finally comes into it’s own across a wide section of the commercial insurance broker market.
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