Canadian Underwriter

How CSIO’s forging consistent data standards interpretation

March 6, 2023   by David Gambrill

Data flowing across multiple computer systems.

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The Centre for Study of Insurance Operations (CSIO)’s mandate has evolved to ensure consistent interpretation of the property & casualty (P&C) insurance industry’s data standards by insurance companies and technology vendors.

“In developing the multi-year strategic plan, CSIO’s board of directors identified an opportunity to further improve standards development and corresponding implementation guides to ensure there is no room for differing interpretations of the XML standard and eDocs codes, even though they are CSIO-compliant,” says CSIO president and CEO Catherine Smola.

“This entails implementing a detailed standards adoption framework, including adoption classification systems and creating a National Standards Governance Council of CSIO members, so that high-quality, relevant standards respond to current and future needs.”

The adoption framework is the process CSIO members go through to ensure compliance to best practices with the CSIO data standard, in addition to CSIO’s Certification Program.

CSIO is Canada’s industry technology association of P&C insurers, service providers and more than 38,000 brokers.

Its goal is to improve Canadians’ ease of doing business within the broker channel by overseeing the development, implementation and maintenance of technology standards and solutions such as eDocs, My Proof of Insurance, and eSignatures.

CSIO’s strategic mandate over the next three years will revolve around three key areas:

  • Standards
  • Delivering essential, credible, secure, and reliable tech solutions
  • Shaping the solutions of today and tomorrow for a seamless experience

In the key area of standards, CSIO will not only continue to create and publish the data standards required for broker management systems to connect with carriers’ back-end systems, but it will also govern those standards as well.

CSIO’s data standards are derived in part from coding the information contained in insurance application forms.

The information fields contained in those forms — an auto insured’s name, address and birthdate, for example — are assigned standard codes, using XML, so that broker management systems (BMS) can communicate with insurance carriers’ back-end systems using the same code to represent the same piece of data. So, the data standards allow the industry’s different tech systems to talk to one another using the same codes.

Tom Reid, a tech consultant for Insurance Brokers Association of Canada, illustrates the problem that arises when there are multiple interpretations of the same data standards. “I was hearing from tech vendors, ‘You’re CSIO-compliant, but [the carriers] are different.’ I thought, ‘How can that be? If they’re compliant to a standard, it should all be standard, right?’ The big takeaway from that is CSIO standards can be implemented in many ways.”

CSIO’s mandate now includes governing the industry’s data standards to avoid any conflicting interpretations. This involves classifying stakeholders that have implemented the standard.

To do this, the plan is to define any ambiguous standards, have members update the standards they have programmed, and pilot the classification system. That way, CSIO can see how the carriers and vendors are implementing the standards and clarify misunderstandings at the outset.

“Carriers participating in our working groups may be early adopters [of a particular standard],” explains Smola. “We will gain insights from the early adopters, and then we will go back to the working groups and fine-tune the standard. After that, we will update the documentation and educate everybody.”

It’s not just carriers providing the feedback, as in Smola’s example. CSIO’s working groups have industry-wide representation.

“Subject matter experts from insurer, vendor and broker representative member organizations work collaboratively to reach consensus on the standards so they are not open to interpretation,” says Kathryn Sinclair, CSIO’s vice president of strategy and operations. “We’ll actively look for knowledgeable experts to participate in our various working groups to vet standard changes and provide definition documentation to accompany the standard.”


This article is excerpted from one that appeared in the February-March issue of Canadian Underwriter. Feature image by Mihai