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Portals are dead. Brokers have moved on to real-time.


February 13, 2018   by David Gambrill


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As insurers move away from their legacy systems and onto more flexible platforms such as Guidewire and Duck Creek, the days appear numbered for portal solutions.

Real-time data exchange is now front and center as a priority for the Insurance Broker Association of Canada (IBAC), the national broker association announced Tuesday.

The current work towards real-time data exchange is possible because insurance companies have spent a lot of time and “hundreds of millions” of dollars updating their legacy systems, says Michael Loeters, co-chair of IBAC’s technology committee.

“What [the insurers’ platform updates] have allowed us to do is move away from portals, which insurance companies have spent a lot of time and money building over last number of years,” Loeters said. “The reason why they were limited to portals was because they didn’t have the technology platforms behind those portals that could easily or cost-effectively with a broker management system.

“As those legacy systems move away, and as you replace the back of those portals with modern, flexible platforms, now you have created the enablement for real-time integration with brokers.”

Portals were a necessary bridge to real-time data exchange, Loeters pointed out. He likened the evolution of broker tech to the evolution of GPS technology since the 1990s.

“There are a lot of technologies out there that people talked about for a long time before they became a reality,” Loeters said, referring to broker discussions about real-time data exchange. “For example, if you bought a GPS unit in the early 2000s, it didn’t work well. A lot of times, it took you to the wrong place. It took a lot of time to evolve to the point where it was ready for prime time.”

Now upon us is the era of real-time data exchange, which features heavily in IBAC’s three tech priorities moving forward. IBAC’s three major tech priorities are:

First, IBAC has launched its “IBAC D/X Action Plan” to ensure the national adoption of its Data Exchange (D/X) Model as the method for real-time technology integration between insurance brokers, insurance carriers and partners. This will include plans to develop an assessment of the readiness of insurers and broker management system (BMS) vendors across Canada, and the creation of a D/X Certification process.

Second, IBAC is urging identification of “off-the-shelf” technologies that can be adopted by the industry to enable faster and easier real-time technology integration between brokers and industry partners using the D/X Model. Examples might include Duck Creek’s ‘Agent Connect,’ essentially a translator that allows Canada’s major broker management systems to connect with the Duck Creek platform. Similar, translator-style offerings are available from Brovada and Willis Towers Watson.

“As brokers we need to strongly encourage insurers to make those kinds of investments [in off-the-shelf technologies] to move away from portals top real-time integration, and then we both win,” said Loeters.

Third, IBAC will be conducting a National Broker Technology Survey.


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7 Comments » for Portals are dead. Brokers have moved on to real-time.
  1. Jason Z. says:

    As a broker I find this very crazy. It makes no sense to me that IBAC would be trying to dilute the waters in the communal “hub” that’s being worked on by the IBAO and all of my markets. I talked in detail with RSA on this just this week be wise it seemed wrong to me. They say they are working with the IBAO despite previous statements by these guys. It’s true that portals are finally being done away with but so are these costly integrators. Happy that Keal isn’t mentioned here. I’d be looking into other options for my brokerage if they’d stayed linked to this.

  2. Nav says:

    I don’t know who Mr. Loeters is but his understanding of where technology is isn’t accurate. I work for an insurance carrier – and we are working closely with the IBAO on the industry feasibility study- All of our APIs are tied to our legacy system. As are most carriers. APIs are making the difference in allowing us to deliver on the IBAO Roadmap for Broker Digital enablement – not new PAS. We engaged with the IBAO on the feasibility study work because 1) they did the market research with the brokers on what was needed for true broker digital enablement 2) they did very detailed analysis of the carrier capabilities (which this article seems to indicate that IBAC now wants to duplicate???) 3) they produced a roadmap that is well defined & achievable & allows this industry to move to the point in the future where portals are no longer needed. That isn’t going to come anytime soon by the way but if we don’t start we will never get there. Lastly the IBAO work has embraced the fact that the days of the integrators are coming to a close. We are largely in this mess because of price tags tied to integrations. It is not sustainable. So nobody on the carrier side will be signing up for a “solution” that is using more integration plugs to shore up this leaky boat. I would expect that on the Duck Creek side we will see a similar unified “road” into their PAS for Canadian customers, much like Guidewire. But there is no “off the shelf” product that does what we need it to do for Canada from a hub perspective. It is silly to even suggest such a thing. It emphasizes where people’s understanding of technology is and what needs to be done. I know that a large part of the market is already engaged with the IBAO on a practical solution. I would think it advisable for IBAC to look to get in line with us on this. I understand that they have received this advice from many parties recently, my comapny included. Perhaps this article will be the last on this as we unite for success.

  3. Dave says:

    As brokers, we can’t wait for and depend on new carrier systems. These systems take years to go live we’ve all seen that, and the need for access to carrier data for brokers is right now. Can we please stop claiming that this is the solution to our problems?? We need practical, real solutions that focuses on helping brokers now. Even once implemented, after years, the new ssytems arent standalone solutions to our problem. Newer platforms are positive progress. But we can’t confuse that with solving the big issue of getting us access to carrier data and functions. From many carriers, not just a few. We can’t get distracted. We need to work with all carriers right now and get this solved as an industry in order to protect our businesses from directs. Another decade of no progress isn’t an option.

  4. A.S. says:

    Time to stop playing politics on this one boys. If we don’t make the changes we need to there’s not going to be brokers. We know that’s the reality we are looking at. IBAC has been given the message that this isn’t supported. I know they heard this clearly at the meeting last week from those in attendance.

  5. T. MacDonlad says:

    Do you know how many articles have been published from this group indicating either that “Real Time” something is available, or that “portals are dead”? I have been hearing this message from them for the past fifteen years and it has never been reflected in the market.

    I get that these people are probably all volunteers at IBAC and certainly not knowledgeable in technology so this is just confusions without harmful intent. That is clear with the off the shelf comment above also. If you knew what the issue was you wouldn’t say there is a product that is a solution. And certainly not an american one at that.

    The survey we completed for the IBAO group last year was the first consolidated survey I have participated in as an insurance company IT resource that asked the right questions to get to the details on actually on a path to get us off dependence on portals. Now don’t get me wrong – I sure wouldn’t want to be a portal company these days. Or an integrator. The end is certainly clearly coming quickly for those guys. I sat in on a call last week that had my team and a very senior digital person from a direct competitor on the call all to talk about how we make non-monetized, open to all data interchange a reality for brokers. If we can’t do this this distribution model is toast. Our company still gets almost all of their business from brokers. So do all our other large comnpeitors.

    We need focus on supporting all brokers and supporting all insurance companies in the market. That means no barriers to entry for data interchange. No impossible direct mappings that don’t get us significant progress. That means helping competitors.

    I will digress for a just a sec also – we put a lot of thought and effort into our IBAO survey responses last year. It took up the time of a few different areas of expertise in our team here. If IBAC come knocking with another survey on the same thing for some reason please be aware that we will not be responding.

  6. Cooper says:

    – Portals are not dead (no matter how many times its said)
    – Agree with T. McDonald, focus needs to be on the market at large brokers and carriers with no barriers.
    – IBAC making YADM (yet another data model) that is not useful is a waste of time and money. IBAO seems to be on the right track, IBAC has derailed.
    – Systems like Duck Creek and Guidewire still don’t have Realtime tech for what brokers want as the data is STILL batch and nightly
    – Duck Creek and Guidewire do not use a standard data model for insurance, costing carriers MILLIONS to implement and mapping, and making it near impossible for portals. Typical Guidewire small impl is five years and $50 million, BEFORE mapping integration.
    – Duck Creek and Guidewire do not meet Canadian regulatory standards and are an issue for any carrier doing an impl. More American companies with a big brother attitude.
    – Portals can do Realtime, if the carrier api is available
    – There are a few examples of Realtime in use of Agent/Broker to Carrier with no middleman, these are not heralded in the press.
    – CSIO is a barrier and not moving forward with a data model that would allow a greater XML/JSON Realtime, and following ACORD which just made their models private member-subscription based. CSIO refuses to adopt the more progressive ACORD 2.20 data model.
    – Realtime open/public model/API for upload/download, for all lines, and policy, claims, customer, reinsurance is needed.

  7. Michael Loeters says:

    There has been a lot of effort on behalf of brokers over many years to shape connectivity and integration efforts within our industry to benefit the broker distribution channel. Ultimately, from a broker perspective, our goal is to serve our customers in a way that is most convenient for them and in the most efficient manner possible. Integration and connectivity challenges between our respective systems – both on the broker side and the carrier side – has been a challenge that no one would argue. However, the investments made by insurance companies across the country have been significant in the last few years. As legacy systems are being updated and replaced, these new company systems are much more capable of natively integrating with existing broker management systems based on the use of CSIO standards and one common language. For the broker, this means greater efficiency as each carrier finds their integration path towards the use of standards which includes the elimination and use of unique z-codes.

    The D/X model adopted and supported by IBAC is based on a set of principles that govern how transactions should flow, and can flow effortlessly, between two systems. IBAC supports all carriers who have already made investments and are making new investments towards achieving this goal. Removing the need for any intermediary in any transaction means a more cost effective method of transacting business which ultimately will make it easier and more cost effective for our customers to do business with a broker. IBAC is encouraged by the level of participation and investment insurance companies are making with respect to their systems and we should continue to encourage them to do so to the best of our collective ability. IBAC continues to receive wide-spread support from virtually all provincial broker associations and many insurance carries of its D/X Model for a number of reasons: 1) it embraces CSIO data standards as the path that should take our industry forward, and 2) it does not download any costs to the broker.

    The fact that so many insurance carriers had expressed interest in being part of the Toronto Insurance Conference (TIC) Proof of Concept based on the D/X Model was very encouraging. That project is underway with delivery expected in the spring of 2018. It is also encouraging that this topic is generating so much discussion and passion in our industry and that brokers are taking the lead. I truly believe that we are now in a time when we can finally solve this problem.

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