April 30, 2018 by David Gambrill
Ontario brokers have garnered the support of at least 16 insurance companies and “all key broker technology vendors” to participate in a study on data connectivity.
The study includes discussion about an Application Programming Interface (API) tech model that would connect brokerages with carriers.
The Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO) announced earlier this year that it would be seeking industry support for a feasibility study on broker-carrier data connectivity. Thus far, the 16 interested companies represent approximately 85% of the personal and commercial lines volume written through Ontario brokers, as well as “the vast majority of the technology vendors supporting that volume within the broker’s office,” IBAO announced Monday.
The broker association has invited company CEOs and CIOs who support the IBAO’s Broker Flow Proof of Concept to a strategy session on May 24. The proof of concept is a key component of IBAO’s Roadmap for Broker Digital Enablement, which supports an API tech model.
“With over 90 insurance companies supporting the broker distribution channel in Ontario, it’s very refreshing to see so many parties agreeing to come together to address such a pivotal issue within our industry,” says IBAO chairwoman Traci Boland. “More than ever before, there’s a need and opportunity for us to work together to look for a solution to improve the end customer experience.
“The timing in the industry for us to align is now – collectively we must continue down the path to service consumers digitally.”
APIs are standardized tools allowing software to communicate with other software. MuleSoft, a tech company that provides a software platform to connect various tech solutions, provides the following example of how APIs work in a website blog: “When you use an application on your mobile phone, the application connects to the Internet and sends data to a server,” the blog states. “The server then retrieves that data, interprets it, performs the necessary actions and sends it back to your phone. The application then interprets that data and presents you with the information you wanted in a readable way.”
In this example, the communication between the mobile phone and the Internet server is mediated through an API, as MuleSoft notes.
One model under consideration by IBAO would have an API Hub mediate the API connections between brokerages and insurers through a single API set for specified broker groups. For example, incumbent brokerages would communicate with insurers through a single API. Broker management system (BMS) add-ons and third-party providers would likewise communicate to insurers through their own unique API. Newcomer brokerages and innovators would also operate through a single API.
This approach would prevent a messy situation in which individual brokerages each communicate with insurers using their own APIs, known as a ‘point-to-point’ system. Such an API solution may well not be achievable, and perhaps chaotic and time-consuming if it were, brokers say.
The IBAO’s Broker Flow Feasibility Study is due to run until mid-May.
“Through simple mapping, we can have all of our broker carriers participate in this data connectivity initiative,” said Simpson. “For brokers, it’s critical that all markets are able to participate in order to facilitate the change necessary to effectively service consumers digitally. IBAO continues to support the adoption of CSIO Standards. We need to ensure data connectivity is achievable for all market participants within a reasonable timeframe in order to address modern consumer demands.”