We’ve been encouraged by the responses to our suggestion that it may be time for a new construct for broker-carrier connectivity. There are two questions that you keep raising:
First, Does this mean that all the work to date has been useless?
Second, How can we be sure that this will meet the needs of the community in a timely fashion?
The short answers are:
There is a lot of good work that could and should be channeled into a new approach (ours or another).
We can’t be sure of anything, especially in this dynamic insurance environment (Telematics … need we say more?). However, we can look at ways to move forward.
We’d like to propose seven principles that we believe will address these and other legitimate concerns and will outline a framework for moving forward.
We’d really appreciate your comments.
1. The Consumer needs to be the primary beneficiary of the work.
Most of the effort to date has focused on improving broker efficiency, and reducing costs for insurers. We think it time to ask: “How does this improve the independent channel’s ability to provide better service and product at competitive pricing.” The difference may seem subtle, but we think the consumer will be, in fact, the final arbiter. And her interests should the the working benchmarks.
2. There need to be clearly defined, measurable objectives that are wins for all stakeholders.
It is not sufficient to say that data exchange will reduce costs for consumers and practitioners. We have to identify where, how, and how much. It is not sufficient to say that broker efficiency will provide lower costs for insurers, there needs to be agreed percentages. The vendors (to brokers and to carriers) must not be left out. If they expect an increase in market share, this should be explicit. Last, but not least, industry associations must articulate value points in quantifiable terms (increased membership, expanded opportunity scope, etc.).
3. New Technology needs to be acknowledged, and its role needs to be explored and understood.
Batch store-and-forward technology is great for what it’s good for. But, that particular hammer is not the perfect tool for every task. Consumers’ expectations for on-line access should not require overnight data exchange. We need to be open about what works best, and not be restricted by past constraints.
4. As an industry, we need to start simple, measure accurately, and be prepared to build out quickly.
Nothing succeeds like success. We need successes that produce measurable improvements that meet stakeholders needs, and can be used as models of effectiveness and efficiency. This might suggest some less-than-strategic tasks as starting points. Perhaps bill presentment? What about certificates of insurance?
5. Standards are very important, but they are not sufficient nor are they always required.
Looking at emerging technologies, we see a lot of standards in production. But we also see a lot of innovation that may become standard at some point, but are not yet widely adopted. In our view, standards should be platforms, but not ceilings.
6. Implementation guidelines,including minimum functional requirements, need to be part and parcel of any delivery.
As we achieve success, we need to document what we did, and what is absolutely required. These may not be standards, but if we all agree to share what works and what doesn’t, we can improve the quality of the product we are delivering.
And the last, but not least, principle ….
7. A single point of contact needs to be responsible for being the focus for shared functions.
In our mind, these functions would include consumer input, plans, measurements, information sharing, alignment among participants and with 3rd parties. This may be an existing organization, a new organization, or a permanent task group. This will be the most challenging principle to put in place, but it need not be time consuming nor expensive. There are models elsewhere.
What do you think?
We’ve written on the history of broker connectivity and have received excellent input from you. All that we’ve heard from brokers, carriers, suppliers, and consumers tell us that these principles are stretch objectives, but not out of reach.
But we’re not the keepers of the truth. Seven is not a magic number. Maybe there are only 5, maybe we need 2 more. Let us know what you think.
You are the real experts. And we look forward to hearing your expertise.