Single Entry Multiple Company Interface (SEMCI) and, more recently, eDoc download are quickly evolving technologies that hold promise for the independent broker distribution channel.
But the ever-changing technology has left most Canadian brokers with more questions than answers. While eDoc offers many opportunities for a broker's environment, a solid understanding of the what, why and how is essential to fully exploit this tool.
So what exactly is eDoc? The industry has had access to the standard CSIOnet batch download, developed by the Centre for Study of Insurance Operations (CSIO), since 1998. It is used by the majority of Canadian brokers to process hundreds of thousands of transactions each and every day.
The eDoc initiative is a piggyback process to electronic data interchange (EDI), as we know it today. It involves using the same CSIOnet pipe to send electronic documents to the broker either at the same time as the policy data using AL3, or afterward with a linked document using XML. These eDocs are attached to the appropriate policy/client in the broker management system (BMS) and/or document management system (DMS). Key to making the process work effectively, though, is to fully automate.
There is recognition in the industry that SEMCI plays an important role in fostering brokerage efficiency. Clearly, brokers need access to all document copies between the insurer and the insured for efficient support, as well as for errors and omissions reasons. In past, the prevailing view may have been that documents located only at their original place and accessible only when needed was the most economical and most logical approach. That is no longer the case.
Over the last few decades, SEMCI was the subject of different analyses and trials by several different parties. Recently, though, the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada (IBAC) and its member provincial associations have adopted guiding principles that led to CSIO establishing and creating an XML standard for SEMCI transactions.
Intact Insurance and RSA have already announced the delivery of this enhancement for their brokers. "There have been many eDoc initiatives in the industry over the last few years, including our own. While these initiatives have provided significant value to brokers, the CSIO approach brings our industry to a completely new level; combined with existing eDoc tools, brokers will have the flexibility to design workflows that are the most appropriate for their operations and their customers. It is encouraging to see our industry work together to develop an efficient and environmentally sustainable solution for brokers," Jack Ott, chief information technology officer for Intact Financial Corporation, commented in a statement from the company.
Noted Steve Knoch, the senior vice president of IT and eBusiness for RSA, "Supporting broker efficiency is a major priority for RSA.We're very proud to be a leader in implementing this functionality for our broker partners. We work very closely with our pilot brokers and broker system vendors to deliver solutions that will make a meaningful impact on brokers' businesses. IT enhancements like this are vital to helping brokers deliver better customer service."
It is no surprise that many other insurers are following and making eDoc a priority this year. As a BMS vendor, Keal is committed to doing its part to ensure that broker's technology keeps pace with new processes. Interest noted and projects requested to date suggest this process is on its way to becoming the standard for broker access to all documents prepared for insureds by insurers.
In a recent survey of Keal brokers, more than 90% of respondents said they will download or make use of this functionality; 80% reported they will download all available insurer documents.
Critical to making this work effectively is to organize processes so there is as little disk space implication as possible.
So how does it all work? At Keal, the process for brokers is both automated and customized so that suspenses or abeyances are created automatically for review by customer service representatives, technical service representatives or others, as required.
The available documents range from policy dec pages, loss notices, company memos, information on direct bill electronic fund transfers, endorsements and the list goes on. Additionally, brokers have the choice to download all available insurer documents or only those selected, based on insurer options.
Consider the following example: a broker may want to review all loss notices for quality or service requirements, but may not want to see any electronic payment information details. This is possible since all documents are saved in the BMS or DMS for either immediate or future review - when and if either is required.
In this case, the loss notices would get attached to the policy/client via the creation of an activity. The notices would then be automatically stored in the BMS or DMS for disk space and efficiency reasons, all while maintaining a link to the policy/client record.
To validate the effectiveness of the eDoc process, Keal conducted an analysis with one broker this past July. Over a three-week period, all incoming insurance company documents from one specific insurer were examined.
The review determined that more than 3,700 documents from one specific company had been received by mail and scanned into the company's sigXP and dokXP system. Of these documents, 89% could fit with the new eDoc download initiative, resulting in that specific broker becoming a pilot broker for the eDoc project.
The option offers a bit of green and a step toward going green - by avoiding costs associated with printing, assembling and shipping documents, and by reducing broker time spent on opening mail and scanning documents.
Disk space is an important part of the equation and must be carefully considered. With different insurers using their technology in different ways, it is still too early to pin down a formula that can accurately define the requirements of disk space and its impact on brokers' technical environments.
A broker pilot project carried out in May 2012 revealed documents as small as 300 kilobyte (KB) and as large as 1.2 megabytes (MB). When downloading 1,700 documents, the total space requirement was 2.3 gigabytes (GB).
While it took 2.25 hours to download without any impact on brokers, it took just 10 minutes to automatically process and attach the documents in the BMS. The pilot makes clear that eDoc enhancement can have an enormous impact to disk space requirements.
The good news is that disk space costs are falling; the not-so-good news is that the size of data storage is increasing exponentially. This presents many challenges, including that the larger the data, the greater the disk space requirement. This, in turn, translates to greater time required to do back-ups, which impedes system availability.
If not managed properly, over time storage of documents in the database will affect the performance of the BMS and become another challenge. To avert these issues, the use of an integrated DMS, which compresses the files and provides simultaneous back-up procedures, is recommended. A stand-alone DMS will require brokers' processors to touch all documents. Just imagine the potential for errors and lost time.
So where does all of this leave the broker? IBAC and its member provincial associations are to be commended for leading the initiative and CSIO for its support and standards development. It is now up to each and every broker to start planning so they are prepared for any impact this will have on their technological environments.
Never has it been a more opportunistic time to embark on proper document process, go paperless and use an integrated DMS. If not yet there, it may be time to dive in and discover what benefits are available.