- Where Insurance & Technology Meet

Lost in Translation: Agent/Broker Interface Across the 49th Parallel

It is interesting to listen to brokers in Canada and independent agents in the US talk with passion about the need for cooperation with insurance carriers to realize ‘realtime interface’.  Both groups tend to speak the same words in English, but mean vastly different things.

In the US, ‘Realtime’ has been formally defined as: “the ability to click on a button from a client file in your agency management system or comparative rater for immediate access to carrier information on that client. The transaction may be a quote, billing inquiry, claim inquiry/loss runs, policy view, endorsements or a request for information. This approach provides a single workflow for servicing or quoting.”   This is from a website devoted to promoting connectivity with insurers to get the most up-to the-minute information for client service.  In other words, the carrier’s information is the ‘true’ copy.

Travel north, and the definition changes.  Committees of brokers, through the national trade association, IBAC, say that real time must achieve the this objective: “all transactions to start and end in the BMS (Brokers Management System), so that all information needed from the broker is sourced from, and recorded in, the broker’s own system, and transmitted to all insurers in a standard accepted format.”  Up in Canada, the broker has the ‘truth’.

At the rating/quoting level, there is some intersection, involving the use of industry standards from ACORD (in the US) and CSIO (in Canada).  In theory, the data in the agent/broker system can be sent to the insurance company and a quote returned. This will mean,  as a white paper on the subject says, “that the agency will never have to go outside of its own system.”

However, when it comes to all the other labour intensive activities, such as renewal, billing, claims inquiry, it is difficult to see how two systems can be (and remain) exact duplicates of the same truth.

It will be interesting to see how the translation holds up.