The move marks a shift away from traditional EDI systems, which are inflexible and expensive to support. Creating Internet portals allows brokers access to more functionality, and could improve the relationship between insurers and their intermediaries. More insurers will follow Norwich Union’s lead, both in the general and life insurance spaces.
Norwich Union has created an enterprise information portal for its general insurance brokers.
CGNU’s UK unit, Norwich Union, has created an enterprise information portal for brokers. The portal provides direct access to the company’s policy administration systems for its general insurance lines
In broker-dominated European insurance markets such as the UK, the insurance industry has created proprietary electronic networks to link with its intermediaries. Brokers and other intermediaries need the services to gain access to instant pricing and policy confirmation, so they can counter the rise of direct insurance channels – particularly call centers.
These EDI (electronic data interchange) networks are run by different insurance or vendor owned companies, such as Polaris. The high support costs of proprietary systems make the networks expensive for brokers to use. They also tend to provide limited transactional functionality – often confined to policy quotation and confirmation.
Norwich Union’s portal scheme avoids these problems, allowing insurers to provide electronic access using brokers’ Internet connections. The more open data format also allows access to a greater range of services, such as policy amendments. It can also give direct access to systems such as mailing out policy schedules, which would have previously required manual intervention by the insurer.
Portals also allow insurers to personalize the service they provide to each broker. An insurer can then analyze the depth of each broker relationship and act to develop this. For example, it could automatically provide information on relevant products.
Given the importance of the intermediary channel in many European markets, the development of such portals will continue both in general and life insurance. Many insurers will also develop similar portals for IFAs.
For the schemes to succeed, portals must give brokers better service than existing EDI networks, which requires full integration with back office systems. They should also be combined with existing channels, such as broker support, so the broker’s access to the insurer is not limited.