December 3, 2018 by David Gambrill
An old adage states that a broker must be able to communicate with clients in the way in which the clients wish to communicate – be it through online portals, telephone, email, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
Similarly, in a multi-solution era of data exchange, insurers’ tech systems must be able to communicate with brokerages and managing general agencies (MGAs) in a way that works for brokers, Phil Baker, head of Beazley Canada, said in an interview with Canadian Underwriter Monday.
Baker told CU that it is a “seminal moment for technology” in the P&C industry, with a variety of different options available for insurers to exchange data with the broker force. Rather than privileging one form of data transfer over another – such as application programming interface (APIs), web-based portals, or even traditional methods such as emails with attachments – insurers need to be able to accommodate a brokerage’s preferred method to exchange data.
“Getting the data from our partners, whether they be brokers or MGAs, we want to make it as efficient and painless as possible, and so we’ll work in number of different areas,” Baker said. “We don’t want to tell our brokers or our MGA partners how they [should] want to conduct business or access us. We want to provide multiple options for that.
“That may mean working through a web-based portal that we’ve created, or offering a white-label solution, or traditional methods via email and other electronic communications. We certainly have some relationships with brokers where we collect data through an API and that works very, very well. We want to provide choice to our brokers and MGA partners.”
Beazley talks about its own technological offerings in terms of “platform” and “non-platform” business.
Non-platform business describes larger risks, including the middle-market space or the risk management space. For these risks, the underwriting process can be very involved, and there are a number of third-party sources that an underwriter may use to evaluate risk. The business can take quite a bit longer to underwrite, and generates a great deal more premium – and more risk.
Platform business refers to SMEs (small- to medium-sized enterprises) and micro-SMEs – businesses that have comparatively standard risks, although there may be specialty coverages. This category may be evaluated according to premium size, varying by coverage line.
On the platform side, later in 2019, Beazley Canada plans to introduce MyBeazley, a tech solution that it is currently in use in Europe and the United States. “Brokers log into our system and it’s a full self-service portal,” says Baker. “You can quote, bind, issue and manage accounts.”
The Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario has in the past expressed concern about the use of proprietary web portals as a principal way to make data exchange between brokers and carriers more efficient. The association is alternatively exploring an “API Hub” that would mediate API connections between brokerages and insurers through a single API set for specified broker groups.
Baker acknowledges the frustration that some brokers have expressed about using company web-based portals, but he points out that many brokers still use portals, particularly if they are well-designed and produce efficiencies. He noted that API solutions are still under development, making portals a viable solution for brokers and brokerages in the meantime.
“Yes, we have heard that some brokers certainly want to move past portals, and that’s great,” Baker says. “Other brokers have got tired of waiting for insurance companies to develop electronic interfaces and have developed their own portals, and that’s [one example of] where we would use the APIs. Even if they don’t have their own portals, we would use API technology to upload data.”
One key to good portals, Baker said, is to reduce the amount of unnecessary dialogue between the broker and the underwriter during the process of collecting and inputting a client’s information.
“We do still hear that brokers, with effective portals out there, are happy to use them,” he said. “We can make the process as simple as possible. For example, one of the things we’ll do on a portal is that we will use as many third-party sources as we can, so that the amount of information brokers have to input is minimal.”