Are Three Legs Enough to Keep the SEMCI Stool Stable?

By BlogEditorNo Comments

We recently posted on the current state of Single Entry, Multiple Company Interface (SEMCI) between independent distributors and insurance carriers.  In spite of consensus on objectives and  serious time, energy, and money spent over almost five decades, we are nowhere near a critical mass which would allow realization of the benefits promised.

In this post, we will look at what we see as a serious structural issue which we feel has been a barrier.  We believe that the major actors cannot achieve sustained success with the current, diffused organization.

(An aside: we are grateful for the feedback  we received on our first post and we ask you to continue to provide candid comment.  For this exercise to provide value, we need the wisdom of the crowd.)

The three legs of the SEMCI Stool

There are a number of organizations surrounding the agent/broker connectivity community, including standards setting bodies (ACORD, CSIO), industry associations, consulting firms, media commentators (present company included), etc.

We believe there are 3 primary stakeholders:

  • Independent agents/brokers
  • Insurers
  • Vendors of technology for the other stakeholders

These organizations spend money directly on providing and implementing solutions and have a direct, vested interest in success of the initiatives. We like to call these the legs on the SEMCI stool, as they all have to be at the same height at the same time, or the stool is unbalanced.

And for most of the history of SEMCI, the stool has been unbalanced.

Vendors …

In the early days (late 70s, early 80s), broker/agency system vendors (suppliers included Redshaw, AMS, and others) took a strong leadership role in early implementations of data exchange and the development of data standards.  The motivation was to increase sales.

Unfortunately, the adage “build it and they will come” didn’t hold true.  Several vendors got too far ahead of their users, and ended up supporting  applications with insufficient revenue stream.  By the late 1980s, most vendors had moved to a wait-and-see approach, undertaking serious development only after the demand was very clearly articulated.

Insurers …

Also, in the early days, insurers took a leadership role in introducing SEMCI.  The agent/broker associations had identified SEMCI as a priority, and insurer marketers saw an opportunity to gain market share by supporting their distributors.  Some insurers bought systems for leading agents.

Insurers also were the primary architects of the standards (few agents/brokers had in-house IT personnel).  Virtually all of the early standards were intended to have the agent/broker enter and send business transactions (initially focused on new business) to the carriers.  This would reduce the manual effort for the insurers, but actually increased the workload at the brokerage/agency.

As with the vendor pioneers, the insurers learned to move at the pace of the brokers/agents, and introduced Download, which  benefited the broker/agent, with the primary cost being carried by the insurer.  It is only a 50% solution.

Agents/Brokers …

Agents/brokers, through their associations, have been the champions of SEMCI since the outset.  Individual brokers have made significant contributions as members of working groups, committees, and boards.  Many brokers have invested heavily in technology which enabled various SEMCI functions.

However, we believe there have been two consistent weaknesses:

  1. There is no single broker/agent voice.  For example, in the US, ACT (the technology arm of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America), have been heavily promoting a SEMCI construct called RealTime for over 5 years.  However, the 2013 survey had only 2,200 responses (on a base of approximately 40,000 agencies in the US). Wwhat the priorities are for the balance?
  2. As important as SEMCI is, it has never been a number one priority for brokers/agents in selecting  insurance carriers.  When making a choice of insurance carriers, brokers have a number of other factors – financial stability, product features, service, price, etc. which typically take priority.

What does all this mean … to you?

We believe that the 3 legged stool has been , and continues to be shaky, with no one vision, and no one in control.

However, this past could be just prologue.  The real question now is whether there are other approaches, different constructs, that could move this forward.  Perhaps a fourth leg for the stool.

We’d like your thoughts.  First, from your experience, have we got the situation right?  Or are we missing something.

Second, what are your thoughts on a going-forward strategy for SEMCI?

In the next post, we’ll offer a collection of your comments as well as our thoughts what could be the way forward.

Broker-Carrier Connectivity, Data Standards

AXA: Just a One-Bullet Digital Insurer? (We Think Not)

By BlogEditor2 Comments

Recently, our friend Denise Garth from SMA posted a blog on a ‘game-changing’ announcement:  AXA France and Facebook entering into a strategic partnership.  This post has quickly made the rounds and caused the count of exclamation marks in emails and tweets to increase geometrically, as other insurers try to absorb the implications of  a global insurer working so closely with the 500-kilo gorilla of social media.

With all due respect, we’d like to suggest that this should not surprise anyone who follows the progression of digital in insurance generally and AXA specifically. The Facebook agreement is another element in continuing progress that a few insurers, including AXA, are making to integrate fully with the digital world.  In so doing, these insurers are steadily transforming how they do business, and, in some instances, transforming the business itself.

We’d like your thoughts on this announcement and what it means for us all.

What is in and out of the AXA-Facebook partnership?

First, we need to note that the exact dimensions of AXA’s partnership with Facebook are not clear.  AXA’s release says that the insurer will access “dedicated Facebook resources, notably including innovation & analytics teams to help in further developing its brand presence on Facebook, particularly on mobile”.  In addition, Facebook  will “analyze the impact of AXA’s communication campaigns on this social network, and its experts will train AXA’s marketing and digital teams.”

According to Hugh Terry, editor of The Digital Insurer and a Director of Insight Consulting, there are some caveats and known unknowns.   Blogging on The Digital Insurer, Terry goes beyond the hype, noting:

  1. It is not an exclusive arrangement – just the first “international insurer”. Perhaps US insurers have similar tie-ups already?
  2. It is not a distribution arrangement – Facebook are not tying up with AXA to sell insurance
  3. It looks like a commercial arrangement whereby AXA pays to access the skills and knowledge of Facebook  analytics and innovation experts in the mobile field. The size of that team is not disclosed
  4. It appears to be centred on France – as the Facebook quote is from the CEO of Facebook in France. Tellingly there is no Facebook press release

That said, this should not be seen as busienss as usual.

AXA has been an active digital citizen…

AXA is no stranger to digital activities.

In a 2013 video, AXA France CEO, Nicolas Moreau describes how they have used to transform they way they connect with customers and prospects across a variety of channels.  “Today, people expect direct access to their insurance provider, moving from a linear, intermediated relationship to a harmonious, connected conversation involving the company, customer, and agency,” Moreau said.

In addition, AXA France has leveraged its social network skills to create  a community of small business owners, which “allows them to interact with each other and with insurance specialists, sharing content, advice, and answers to each other’s questions, ” Moreau notes.

Moreau says the the value for AXA France is that it “promotes our brand, builds customer loyalty, and transforms the way we connect with customers….which is huge.”

It’s not the media, but the message…

We don’t think that the measure for insurers is how much digital they are doing, but how well it is impacting their business.  Back in November 2013, we noted an EY report which found that two thirds of insurers surveyed had had quick wins with digital initiatives, but only 10% of respondents were realizing transformational change as a result of digital initiatives.

During a keynote presentation at the Technology Conference 2014, Michel Laurin, president of Industrial Alliance Auto and Home Insurance, discussed the role of digital engagement in his company’s Mobiliz Usage-based Insurance (UBI) offering.  In a weekly email to individual clients, Mobilz presents the driver’s own behavioural results for speeding, hard braking, etc. and comparison of the results with the balance of the “community”.   The intention is to create competition for improvement.

We see parallels here with AXA’s strategy of continuous innovation.  It is not social (or UBI, or any other technology) that is the objective.  Rather, it is the intelligent utilization, resulting in improved customer engagement and profitable growth for the insurer.

What do you think?

We’d like your thoughts.  Is the AXA announcement causing buzz in your organization?  Is that buzz likely to stimulate activity? Do you think it should?

Social Media, Software Selection, Telematics

Broker Connectivity: Can This Circle Be Unbroken?

By BlogEditor2 Comments

A recent post on the popular Canadian Insurance Strategy Group’s LinkedIn site generated numerous comments that provided a recap of the past plans, present status, and future desires for broker connectivity.  The result reminded us of the old quip:  “When all is said and done, there is much more said than done.”

We would like to get back to first principles here, providing an overview of the broker connectivity (frequently called SEMCI – Single Entry, Multiple Company Interface) landscape in this post and in a few to follow.  Our intent is to address a few simple questions:

  • What progress have we, as an industry in Canada, made in realizing the goals of SEMCI?
  • What are the barriers that implementers are, and will be, facing?
  • What are real options going forward to realize the benefits that SEMCI has promised?

We’ll start with some fundamentals in this post:  How did SEMCI get started, What has been the progress, and How valid is the business case.  We’d like this to be a conversation, and for that we need you to join in.

Why did we set out to drain this swamp?

In July 2012, we blogged on the origins of broker connectivity.  Brokers felt that attacks by direct writers and increased incursions by independent distributor carriers into broker-client relationships were threatening the traditional broker role.

Experts from the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) recommended that independent distributors come together to use technology to improve efficiencies in order to “reduce costs and to generate additional time for selling and servicing accounts.”   A key element was the use of standards to allow seamless connectivity between brokers and carriers.

Most proponents of SEMCI would concur with these objectives today.  The issue is that the SRI report was filed in 1967.  While there has been progress, now, 47 years later,  proponents and skeptics alike would agree that penetration has been substantially less than what was expected, and far short of what is required.

So what has been the progress?

There is no consensus on measurement.

Over the years, several industry organizations  (including ACORD and CSIO, the US and Canadian standards development organizations) have undertaken measurement of the implementation of SEMCI.  Most of these have been abandoned.  There has been a lack of consensus on several issues, including:

  • What constitutes an implementation?  If the technology is installed, but data is not being exchanged, is that an implementation?  If there is only one carrier in a broker’s office participating, can this be ‘multi-carrier’ connectivity? If there are multiple carriers, but there is only one line of business, does this count? And so on…
  • Who does the counting?  If the vendor reports success, but the carrier and/or broker disagree, who is the adjudicator?  If there is concurrence at one point, but no response in future questionnaires, do we assume it continues?

NOTE: The US  Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA) ACT committee does survey reports every 18 moths or so, and have reported growth in utilization. The actual penetration within the agent community is not measured.

Is there a valid business case?

This has been problematic due to its inter-organizational nature.  What is a benefit for one participant may be a cost for another.

For example, looking  at the cost of using different processing systems yields a positive return for brokers in most instances.  (See, e.g., Patricia Alexander’s article Enhance Your Bottom Line with Technology, on the ACT website.)

However as Celent’s Craig Weber pointed out some years ago, “Commoditization of products and core services like new business makes it hard for carriers to differentiate themselves.”   Weber also notes that as important as it might be for agents, “SEMCI is a luxury item for producers, well behind product and price as a key driver of carrier choice.”

What do you think?

While the interest in SEMCI and broker connectivity continues, and there are a number of committed, caring, and wise individuals involved, we’re wondering how much of this interest is driven now by momentum alone.

We’d like your thoughts here.  Can a solid business case be made?  Can progress be measured? Are there other overarching concerns.

In subsequent posts, we’ll be looking at the vendors and other interested parties (including consumers).  Thoughts here would be welcome.

Improve the connectivity.  Leave a comment below.

Broker-Carrier Connectivity

Changing Driver Behaviour – Can UBI Deliver?

By Colin WrightNo Comments

Clearly audible amid the buzz surrounding UBI in Canada is the expectation that it will be effective in changing driver behaviour, i.e., it will help drivers improve their skills. This is exciting because a corollary of improved skill is reduced loss costs making changing driver behaviour an important selling point for insurers contemplating a push into UBI.

During a recent webinar a case was presented that examined data collected from three drivers whose performance was nominally similar but whose skills, on closer examination, differed considerably. The key takeaway being that the granularity of telematics data and the application of powerful analytical tools make it possible to identify these differences and leverage them to predict losses and properly price risk.

Research has consistently shown that when presented with the concept of UBI and the idea that adopting it could yield them a monetary benefit with no downside risk, many drivers express interest in the product. Interest is typically reported as ranging from one to two thirds of respondents with the top third very interested and the bottom third not at all. Half or more of those drivers who are very interested in UBI are also reported to be willing to change their behaviour.

Putting the Brakes on Expectations

The apparent alignment between what the technology can deliver and emerging consumer acceptance, even preference, seems very promising. But, perhaps there’s cause for gentle application of the brakes on the ‘changing driver behaviour’ bandwagon, at least with respect to programs that seek to attract the soft target of cautious, identifiably low-risk, drivers. There are a number of reasons this might be prudent.

  • Progressive Insurance first offered a UBI product in 1999 and has gathered data from more than one million cars and over nine billion miles, or fourteen and a half billion kilometres, of driving. It now captures only six months of data from its Snapshot policyholders before a renewal discount is set. Why has the company with the most experience gathering and analyzing multi-dimensional UBI data chosen to limit the number of data points it uses to assess policyholders’ driving performance? Could it be that Progressive has learned that driver behaviour doesn’t change much over time?
  •  Most new UBI programs target good drivers whose driving habits are likely to yield a discount for the policyholder. This subset of drivers is not a representative sample of the whole driving population and so the models of good driving behaviour likely suffer from sample bias. Will this approach lead to a comprehensive understanding of driver behaviour and what is needed to modify that behaviour?
  •  Behaviour change is probably best achieved with strong incentives, intense and frequent engagement, and immediacy in terms of realizing the promised benefits. Industrial Alliance’s Mobiliz is a good example. Can other programs, designed around casual engagement, periodic contact, and once-yearly realization of benefits, precipitate meaningful changes in behaviour?

UBI is in its infancy in Canada and much remains to be learned. Improving driver skill and road safety generally are laudable goals but perhaps for now should be treated as peripheral benefits rather than as program objectives or key selling points. UBI has massive potential to reshape the auto insurance landscape but it needs broad application to do so and narrowly delivering its benefit to an already low-risk group under the guise of improving driver behaviour will not adequately leverage its potential.

For a more in-depth examination of the topic, go to and download Corner Two Consulting’s white paper, Changing Driver Behaviour – Can UBI Deliver?


Colin Wright ( is a proponent of UBI and Principal of Corner Two Consulting, which focuses on UBI preparedness. Colin has extensive experience in financial services, including managing business analytics units for two leading insurers and managing Aviva Canada’s Autograph UBI pilot from 2008 to 2010. He holds an MBA from York University’s Schulich School of Business.

Pay-As-You-Drive, Telematics

Insurance-Technology 4.0: Are We on the Cusp?

By BlogEditorNo Comments

Since the dawn of modern business computing, there have been three major generations: business scaled computers, personal computers, and the Internet.  Each of these has had distinct characteristics and distinct implications for the insurance industry. A very wise mentor of ours refers to these as the ‘Generations of the Previously Unthinkable,’ due to the wide-ranging, fundamental changes brought about by each.

We have a strong feeling that we are on the cusp of the Fourth Generation of the Previously Unthinkable. We’d like to start a conversation with you about this, with a working title of Insurance-Technology 4.0.

This post will provide a general outline of the generations to date, and we’ll go into more detail in future posts.  For the moment, however, we’d like to know:  Do you feel the same as we do — that something very fundamental is changing?

The First Generation:  Big iron goes to work

The  first generation of technology-driven change began after the second world war, and insurance was an early adopter.  Joanne Yates, in a 1993 paper written for the Sloan School, notes that US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that insurance carriers made up one-third of commercial users of computer systems in 1955.

Much of the drive was for efficiency, to reduce manual data computations.  However, there were visionaries who saw the transformational nature of these devices.  In a presentation to the Society of actuaries, Edmund C. Berkeley, from Prudential Insurance Company of America, articulated two expectations for computers:  (1)  “reduce materially the present clerical work “, and (2) “enable actuaries to do many things they now only dream of doing.”

After some reservations, P&C insurers enthusiastically invested in package systems through the 1960s and 1970s and conducted proprietary development.  These applications ran on large mainframes, had teams of operators and programmers, and handled a variety of policy and billing needs as well as offering new methods for rating, underwriting, and claims handling.

Second Generation: Why are you playing with those toys?

The second generation came out of the garage — literally.  Some of the he first personal computers didn’t come in boxes, they came in kits, that the user had to assemble.   In the late 1970s, some bright lights — the two Steves (Jobs and Wozniak) and Bill Gates came up with a novel idea: these devices  could be used for business.

The latter notion was generally dismissed by the majority of IT professionals.  However users caught on quickly.  The IT world of the day was a very closed environment.  Changes to systems were tightly controlled and new applications had to go through a number of approval cycles.  The idea of a user controlled computer was intuitively appealing to line workers and managers alike, who acquired the devices outside of the normal IT approval process.

In the insurance community, the PC democratized systems for independent agents and brokers.  Agency systems had been developed in the 1980s, however the cost of mid-range computers were prohibitive for all but the largest of agencies/brokerages.  PCs changed that.  And insurers saw opportunities to offer these productivity tools to their distributors at low cost — or no cost — depending on premium volume.

The Third Generation: The interconnectedness of it all

Like the first generation, the third generation was a war baby.  The  concept of an internet came from the requirement that military computers had to remain connected even following a nuclear attack on communication facilities.  One implementation, ARPANET, was put into use in 1969, and grew throughout the government and research communities.

In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee added standardized addressing and protocols, and the World Wide Web was formed.  As with PCs, a number of IT professionals dismissed the Web as too uncontrolled and insecure for business.  But, again, users drove acceptance.

A major outcome for insurance professionals was the rise of the consumer as critical node on insurer/broker networks.  As with many forms of information, product data, and the ability to conduct transactions, was no longer restricted to carrier and broker employees.  Self-service was the order of the day.

What do you think: Is the Fourth Generation  on the horizon? 

We have a sense the next generation may be poised to come to light sooner rather than later.  We have some ideas and will share them.  But we’d like your thoughts first.

Two simple questions:  (1) What will the next fundamental change be,  and (2) how will it impact insurance?

For extra points, you can give us date and time.






Business-Technology Alignment, Insurance-Technology 4.0, IT Management

Is IT’s Elevation of Role Raising Risk Levels?

By BlogEditorNo Comments

The profile and influence of  IT are expanding — rapidly. Business leaders speak about the integral role of IT in modern commerce.  We see lots of articles saying that IT is one of the growing professions.  Even the NASDAQ is supporting pretty aggressive multiples on technology stocks with little talk of a bubble.  It’s a great time to be busy in a hot profession, right?

Some recent research suggests we might do well to remember that with reward comes risk.  And that risk could get personal; when we meet the enemy, as Pogo said, he might possibly be us.

We’d like to know your thoughts on risks in the insurance IT world.

Be careful what you wish for …

IT professionals have long argued that technology is more than an efficiency tool, it can, and should, support strategic initiatives.  On this basis, IT leaders should be recognized as peers at the executive and board levels.

It seems the right folks have been listening. Writing in The McKinsey Quarterly (reprinted in Insurance Networking News),  Naufal Khan and Johnson Sikes reported on the most recent McKinsey global executive survey on business technology.  At a high level, it is a good news story for IT professionals seeking a broader business role:

“Concerns about managing costs are down, while larger shares of executives now say their organizations are using IT to improve business effectiveness and information availability. Respondents cite these same objectives most often as ideal priorities, suggesting that companies are getting better at aligning their actual priorities with what’s ideal—and that more executives see IT as core and relevant to day-to-day business, not merely a cost center.”

And spending is reflecting these expectations.  Over the next 3 years, respondents expect average spend on infrastructure and core applications to drop from 53% of IT budget to 41% while spend on analytics and innovation initiatives is expected to increase from 22% to 32% of the same budget dollars.

… You just might get it

The good news doesn’t continue unfettered, however.  The same respondents see IT being less effective at achieving business goals than in the past.

From 2011 to 2013, the survey indicates slight drops (less than 10 basis points) in the perception that IT facilitates some functions: Sharing Knowledge, Delivering Productivity Gains, and Tracking Customer/Segment level profitability.  There was a greater drop in facilitating: Creation of New Products (13 basis points) and Entering New Markets (20 basis points).

Insurers understand risk …

So IT departments in insurance companies can expect close scrutiny.  According to the results of Wolters Kluwer research for its Regulatory and Risk Management Indicator report (reported in Insurance & Technology), insurers don’t find the view all that comforting.

When asked what was the top obstacle to managing risk at the enterprise level, 37% of the 300 organizations responded “Too many technology systems that are not integrated.”  This was the highest response overtaking others including “Regulatory pressure”.  A separate, but related IT category, “The lack of quality data, management, and analysis,” earned support from an additional 14%.

Steve Taylor, senior market manager of enterprise risk and compliance for Wolters Kluwer, told Insurance & Technology that out-of-the-box implementations of technology to meet a wide range of needs “are often lacking when faced with the demanding and increasingly complex landscape of regulations for financial services companies.”

Where to from here? It gets personal…

McKinsey asked respondents what needed to be done to improve IT performance, Naufal and Sikes indicate that “the largest shares of all respondents say improving business accountability, reallocating funding to priority projects, and improving the level of IT talent would do most to improve performance.”

Some went further.  Twenty percent of respondents identified “replacing IT management” as a solution, up from 13% in the 2011 survey.  Interestingly, when the responses from IT personnel were segregated, Naufal and Sikes report: “28 percent say new management would boost effectiveness, more than twice the share of business executives who say the same.”

Ouch.  Et tu Brute?

What do you think?

Is IT just going through growing pains and needs time to adjust to a newer, broader mandate?  Or  are there some fundamental obstacles that prevent us from achieving the higher expectations business is putting on us? Or something else?

We’d like your thoughts here.

Business-Technology Alignment

Independent Agents and the Disappearing Internet: The Road to Insurance 2024

By BlogEditor1 Comment

Recent research suggests that the Internet, and related social functionality, is becoming ‘invisible’ — simply blending into, and augmenting, our normal activities.  This is not just a theoretical construct for leading independent insurance agents and brokers, as the experience of a six-person independent insurance agency demonstrates.

We’d like your thoughts on the phenomenon of the disappearing Internet and your experience with using its invisible social tools.

What the experts say…

Pew Research recently canvassed over 2,500 experts, asking where we will be in 2025. Pew reported there were some notable differences in outcomes, but incredible unanimity in one thing: “the Internet will be effortless and most people will tap into it so easily it will flow through their lives ‘like electricity.’”

The experts cited specific drivers, such as wearable devices, embedded computing, and artificial intelligence in cloud based systems.  However, Dan Lynch, founder of Interop, took it to the basics, writing, “The most useful impact is the ability to connect people. From that, everything flows.”

What Independent Agents do …

We don’t know whether Claudia McClain read any of the Pew research.  We do know she put the concepts into practice in the service of her customers at The McClain Insurance Services, her six-person Everett Washington insurance agency.

A case study Claudia wrote for ACT begins “It’s a great time be an independent insurance agent.”  She adds that   “It’s also a great time to live in the Seattle area,” given that the home team, the Seahawks, just won the Superbowl.  With the help of Seattle-based insurer, PEMCO, Claudia and her team mashed-up the two ‘greats’ into a win for everyone, using the invisible social and Internet tools that have become integral to her business.

Claudia’s story is compelling and worth the read.  Here’s the plot line.  PEMCO had been promoting the Seahawks throughout the season, and with the Superbowl season gave Claudia’s agency the chance to organize a fan event – signing 100-by-40-foot banner which would fly over Met Life Field on Superbowl weekend.

With only four days to the signing event, the McClain Insurance services team went into high gear.  In addition to issuing a press release, her agency tapped into the internet, with a dedicated web site, and social media.  A paid promotion for a Facebook event, which reached 20,000 people locally.

A postcard promotion also fed artwork which was used for a dedicated blog on the web site. Email to the agency’s 1,900 clients pointed back to the website which contained a football-oriented customer survey.  According to Claudia , the email had a 44.6% open rate.  The survey gave the agency an average grade of 4.95 out of 5, and had a 9 out of 10 Net Promoter score, meaning 9 of 10 would recommend the agency to others.

On the day of the event, the staff set up food and programmed the electronic sign outside their office to attract any and all.  The result:  1,632 signatures on the banner, including the 12,000 one (the theme of the banner was the fan as the 12th man on the field).

All of this in four days.

What’s the moral of the story?

Claudia says that the agency enjoys a 95% retention rate because it relentlessly pursues two areas: quality of service which warrant referrals,  and customer engagement.  The agency’s management system (AMS) is a core element in these strategies.

To augment the AMS, during the early 2000s, Claudia’s team “ventured online to better reach an increasingly digital insurance – buying public.”  This resulted in the implementation of a marketing engine which integrates the the AMS to provide timely, relevant communications to prospects and customers.

Claudia and her team also became active with social media to support customer engagement.  The point is, it wasn’t any one tool or strategy, but rather a combination of all of these elements, combined with the agency’s drive to provide superior service, that provided the necessary knowledge and skills to pull off the 12th Man event.

From our perspective, this is the seamless integration that the experts are predicting, allowing technology to be the quiet, invisible enabler.

What do you think?

We know there are many independent agents and brokers going down this road, and we’d like to hear your experiences.  Our question is this:  How can technology suppliers really help users like Claudia continue to drive business without being overwhelmed by technology itself?

Put on your cloak of invisibility, and let us know.


Broker Technolgy, Business-Technology Alignment, Social Business, Social Media

Who Owns the Client? A Modest Proposal

By BlogEditor7 Comments

When we first started working with independent distributors  in the insurance industry (around the time the wooly mammoths were roaming Southwestern Alberta), one of the first liquid lunch debates focused around the ownership of the client.  We recall that the debate was long, intense, and came to no conclusion.  At the recent Technology Conference, the same debate arose in two separate sessions, with about the same results (minus the bar tab).

We’d like to offer a modest proposal to bring this to some conclusion. It is less philosophical and, we believe, reflects the social reality that is emerging.  We’d like your thoughts.

To recap…

For our purposes, a client is a party (personal, familial, commercial) that has bought insurance.  Sometimes this is  extended to a prospect (not having purchased, but in the process of buying).

When the insurance is sold through a direct channel, the party is usually considered to be a client of the direct insurer.  However, when the insurance is sold through an independent distributor (agent/broker), the independent usually claims  ownership of the client.

In some cases, as one of our expert panelists pointed out, this ownership agreement is part of the distribution contract.

Is shared ownership possible?

Most insurers have not challenged the independents’ position as the client advocate, and have acknowledge that there is ownership.  However, as insurers have moved into aspects of client service (claims of course, but also direct billing, etc.), and have started direct to consumer advertising, they have started to poke at the notion of shared ownership.

Few independents are willing to give ground on this, however, and the debate continues, sometimes with great emotion.

Let’s take a short side trip ….

Before the commercial internet came into being, network providers competed for customers on the basis of their individual strengths.  Most companies had only one network provider that serviced all of their needs.  The networks closely held these ‘clients’.

The down side of this was the inability to link networks without proprietary and expensive work.  Email, file access, application sharing were mainly network specific functions.

The internetworking concept stood this on its head.  Instead of a proprietary network being an advantage, it became a boat anchor.  Initially, email was the killer application for internetworking, but then Tim Berners-Lee came up with an addressing scheme that allowed users to navigate a ‘web’ of applications, files, etc.

In a mere 20 years, this internetworking has become the standard.  Pure proprietary end-to-end networks are rare.  Security and standards of service have morphed to accommodate a cloud of connections.

And we are better for it.  We still select the network that we want to connect to, but these providers embrace, rather than exclude, other network participants.

Now, let’s be social …

On top of this web, we are seeing the maturation of social networking tools.  As nodes of connectivity are linked, so are people.  Twitter users re-tweet messages from everyone to anyone.  My business connections on LinkedIN connect with your connections and we all have more contacts to leverage.

And the social networks are interconnecting.  Tweets appearing on Facebook.  LinkedIN updates appearing on Twitter.

With little or no thought of ownership.

Is this a model?

Responsible social users take connections seriously.  I won’t expose my LinkedIn connections to people I don’t know, for instance.  I will, however, refer colleagues to people I do know.

Perhaps this is a model..  I ‘own’ the relationship with my colleague, and I maintain it by not abusing the relationship.  However, I don’t own the relationship that that colleague has with others, not even those that I have introduced.

We recognize there are professional and legal obligations between independent distributors and insureds to ensure quality of service.  But this does not necessitate ownership, not in our mind. 

What do you think? 

Is this a start towards resolution of the client ownership conundrum?  We’d be interested in your thoughts.  Leave a note below.







2014 Technology Conference, Broker-Carrier Relationships

ICTA2014: And the Winners Are … Portals? (Not)

By BlogEditorNo Comments

ICTA-121x57When the votes were all cast, the winners of this year’s Technology Awards (ICTAs) have one factor in common:  All of the winners implemented portals.  Does that make this the Year of the Portal?  Not in our mind.  We’d like your thoughts.

First, who are the Winners, and what about portals…

At a ceremony earlier today at the 2014 Technology Conference, the awards were presented.

In the Supplier category, Intrepid 24/7, an Ingle International Company took the winner’s plaque.  Using internal resources, Intrepid 24/7 developed TravelNavigator ™,  technology that works with mobile as well as standard Web devices, to provide worldwide worldwide medical, security, and travel assistance to individuals and groups.

Ives Insurance Brokers Ltd, took the top prize in the Distributor category with the successful implementation of a consumer portal , allowing consumers secure 24/7 access to information in the broker’s management system and, via CSIO standard transactions,  from insurers’ systems.  Keal Technology and Quindell were recognized as Ives’ partners in the implementation.

In the Insurer category, Travelers Canada won for its implementation of E-CLIPS, an on-line commercial insurance processing environment with quote, bind, and issue capabilities, including a point-of-sale mobile facility.  OneShield was recognized for its supporting role as a technology partner.

So If you want to be a winner, you need a portal, right?  Before we answer, let us introduce you to the jury.

The Jury Made the Tough Calls ..

All of our jurors acknowledged that the these winners were deserving, but the nominees and finalists were seconds not minutes behind.  These hardworking professionals are:

Debra Ambrose, Aviva
Mark Breading, SMA
Mike Fitzgerald, Celent
Greg Maciag, ACORD
Jim McGregor, Precept
Rick Orr, IBAO
Colin Smith, Opta
Catherine Smola, CSIO

One question: Do these folks look like they’re easily seduced by technology?

So what’s with  portals?

While it’s true that  all the winners used portals as part of the solution, that was but a component.  All of the winners had complex internal and external integration tasks, each of them had specific internal goals.  And, most significantly we believe, each of the winners had a clear picture of how the solution would provide a high level of service to the end consumer.

Of course, Ives had the most direct link to the consumer.  But both Intrepid24/7 and Travelers Canada were looking to meeting the new expectations of consumers.  As it happens, we are all getting to expect portals as part of that service mix.

The purpose of the ICTAs is …

… “To celebrate organizations in the Canadian Property and Casualty Insurance industry whose implementation and use of technology shows a significant impact on a process or group of processes used in the sale, processing and servicing of insurance in Canada.

We think the winners hit this mark, in the dead centre of the the portal.

As usual, we’d like to know what you think.

Regardless, though, please join us in thanking the jury, celebrating all who were nominated, the finalists and the winners.



2014 Technology Conference, Business-Technology Alignment, ICTAs

BMS Vendors bring their A-games to #ICTC2014; What do YOU want to know?

By BlogEditor1 Comment

ICTC-wheel-plain-r60The challenge from Randy Carroll, CEO of the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario,  was simple:  “We want the brokers to see the BMS vendors’ best products for the present and their plans for the future.  Tell them to bring their A-Games.”  With the active cooperation of Randy and his team at IBAO, we think we’ve met the challenge.  Now it’s your turn.

Before the BMS vendors start answering. we’d like to know:  What do you want to hear from the vendors?

The call went out, and leading vendors responded …

IBAO agreed to structure head-to-head presentations from the vendors. contacted the leading BMS suppliers in Ontario, and three answered:

  • Applied Systems
  • Custom Software Solutions
  • Keal Technology

Day 1 – Inquiring minds want to know…

Day one (March 17th) will address key issues.  Each of these BMS organizations are sending a senior executive to  talk to the following: “The core of a broker’s business is embedded within the BMS. As brokers address the challenges today and tomorrow, is the broker’s BMS in synch with their needs?”

Rick Orr, past-president of IBAO will then convene a panel of the vendors to answer two critical questions:  “Are the Real Challenges Being Addressed?” and “How do We Get There?

Day 2 – The Deeper Dive …

Day two will allow the three BMS vendors to take deeper dives into specific elements of core systems that they see as critical to broker success.  In addition, other suppliers of solutions in broker connectivity (Brovada), data utilization (OPTA), and Electronic Signatures (Silanis) will discuss technology that complements the core systems.

To provide third party balance to the sessions, we have leading analysts and consultants (Celent, SMA, Accenture, MARCON, Pathway Partners, Navicom) participating in the Broker Technology Stream.

To ensure that theory meets reality, we also have leading brokers actively involved in many of the sessions, including Ives Insurance Brokers, Orr and Associates, Beyond Insurance Brokers, Mass Insurance Brokers, Josslin Insurance Brokers, Hoffman Brown, and Erb & Erb.

Carriers too will be participating.  Supporters and speakers for the #ICTC2014 include TD Insurance, Unica Insurance, The Guarantee, Intact Insurance, Economical Insurance, Aviva, and Travelers Canada.

Now, it’s up to you… What are your questions?

Between the IBAO and, we think we’ve put together an agenda to address Randy’s challenge.  And, knowing the vendors, we think everyone is bringing their A-games to #ICTC2014 next week.

(Just an aside, the broker stream is about 25% of the total conference.  You can see the full detail at the Agenda-at-a-Glance.)

So it’s up to you.  We hope you can attend (brokers can still enjoy their special registration fee on-line).  Regardless, we’d like to give your questions to the BMS vendors to consider in advance.

Leave your comments below and we’ll make sure they get addressed.





2014 Technology Conference, Broker Technolgy, Broker-Carrier Connectivity
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