DAILY NEWS Nov 29, 2012 11:32 AM - 0 comments

Brokers' technology group focuses on "digital client experience," broker management systems

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By: Greg Meckbach, Associate Editor

The Organization of Real-time Brokers Implementing Technology (ORBiT) held its annual general meeting in Toronto Tuesday, announcing the progress of working groups as members discussed hot-button issues including electronic versions of pink auto insurance slips, electronic payments to brokers and the use of technology to compete with direct writers and agents.


ORBit, which includes 13 insurance carriers, 10 information technology vendors and 101 brokerages, has working groups studying best practice workflows in different areas.

Digital experience a priority for members

The working group on client access has been renamed “digital client experience.”

During an afternoon session at the Insurance Institute offices, ORBiT members were asked for a show of hands as to which groups should be the top priority, and the greatest number, 22, indicated digital client experience.

The group’s volunteer leader, Jamie Martyn, said during a presentation Tuesday that the group is looking for more members, especially vendors. Its first meeting was Monday. The group has identified goals, including the development of a workflow to allow a client to log in to a broker management system or interface to perform tasks and to identify all possible tasks that clients would want to perform.

Some tasks could include viewing information such as coverage items, billing, claims and printing pink (auto) insurance cards.

One audience member asked Martyn whether anyone in the working group is looking at the legality of electronic documents, alluding to the fact that some auto insurance clients have received traffic tickets because they produced electronic versions, rather than printed pink slips, of their auto insurance policies when stopped by police.

That question was addressed by another audience member, Randy Carroll, chief executive officer of the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario.

“At this point in time, there is no appetite to move in this direction,” he said of Ontario government regulators. “That will change, we just need to keep up the political process and we continue to do our lobby effort, but you won’t see anything, from my perspective, given everything else they have on their plate with the (final report of the Ontario Automobile Insurance Anti-Fraud) Task Force coming out, and in what they have to accomplish between now and 2013. A better reality to push may be in 2014 but you won’t see it in 2013.”

The digital client experience working group is also looking at the ability for clients to perform tasks, such as making policy changes, reporting claims, amending banking information and making payments.

Missed payments and NSF major issues

ORBiT has a separate working group on real-time payments, led by Devona Allin, an ORBiT director.

In her presentation, Allin noted she used to own a brokerage.

"Payments was one of my pet peeves,” she said. “I had lots of issues with it, I was the one that did them and so I know that the processes that are in place today don't work."

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Major issues include missed payments and non-sufficient funds (NSF) in clients’ accounts, she said.

One goal of ORBiT’s payments working group is to enable users to make payments "without cutting a cheque for each payment” and noted some carriers offer direct electronic banking to consumers.

"It's time brokers have electronic payment options as well," Allin said, adding the group has developed a business case and best practice workflow, which they have distributed to carriers, technology vendors, IBAO and the Centre for Study of Insurance Operations (CSIO) for vetting.

Some companies “are looking at a pilot and implementation” in 2013, she said.

"We did receive feedback from the carriers stating that this initiative is not on their short list as they are not hearing this is a priority for brokers,” she said. “What the heck? All the brokers that I talk to, this is a priority."

She added ORBiT broker members should speak to marketing representatives.

"Remind your carriers that we are currently lagging behind on this issue and need to follow the lead of other industries with regard to real-time payments," she told the members.

In addition to client experience and payments, other 2012 ORBiT working groups included: New business quote and bind; electronic data transfer/inquiry; password management; commercial lines; roadmapping and implementation; and media, education and communications.

A ninth working group, for a standard portal format, was listed but did not convene last year.

Workflows are recommendations, not standards 

ORBiT executive director John Foreman said the best practice workflows being developed by the working groups are not intended to be dependent on one specific technology.

"We try to define the workflow so that it works regardless of which technology combination brokers and carriers are using," he said, adding the workflows are recommendations, rather than standards.

"We firmly at ORBiT believe that adoption of these workflows is voluntary," ORBiT chair Wendy Watson said in opening remarks before the formal portion of the AGM. "We don't believe that brokers should be mandated to use them, either by their carrier partners or by other brokers."

But she warned brokers that they need to adopt new technology to compete with agents and with insurance firms selling directly.

"If we don't start getting more efficient, if we don't start using what our technology vendors and what our carriers are putting out there for us, we're going to be in trouble."

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