Bonfire of the portals

I was asked recently by a speciality insurer if Quotech could build a broker portal. The insurer wanted a platform that brokers could visit to submit risk details, receive quotations, and bind policies. I said we certainly could make a quote-and-bind portal, but could we is the wrong question. The important one is would we build it.

Wrong solution

I explained my view that a new quote-and-bind portal is the wrong solution for a London-market P&C speciality insurer. They work well for consumer-facing underwriters, especially when the portal can be interrogated by aggregators’ web-based search platforms. They also work for bog-standard SME coverage (which is essentially consumer insurance for businesses), and have a role to play in very niche speciality lines where the number of carriers with appetite is low, and those that have it typically write 100%. For all the rest – for the vast majority of risks which reach the London market – another Q&B portal is not what brokers want. It’s fantastic for the carriers, who capture all the data for quotation, processing, and later analysis right at the outset, in the format they want. But it comes at the cost of the broker having to key it in. If she wants four quotes, she has to key it in five times, counting the initial entry into the broker’s own system. No broker has time for that, and even if they did, it is very much easier to cut and past four emails. The Q&B portal adds no value for the intended user.

The new aggregators

Happily the next-generation connected alternative is cheaper and easier for everyone. All the major brokers and many smaller ones have begun the process of creating their own private aggregator tools. The risk data is entered only once, then fed via an API is directly into underwriters’ systems for an indicative quote or referral, just like a consumer aggregator. Carriers need only to create the APIs that connect their in-house underwriting workbench to these new broker systems. In general such platforms are not quite ready yet (unless everyone is using Quotech tools), although some are in relatively advanced development, but this is the model for the future, and will begin to arrive soon. When major distribution asks markets for a bit of cheap connectivity, they’re likely to provide it quickly. When broker aggregators arrive in full, insurers with their own portal won’t get a look-in, or even an e-mail.

Standard bearers

Comprehensive data standards will of course be essential to ensure that all the digital apples and oranges roll smoothly along a level playing field. A major step forward on this front is London’s agreement (at last) to adopt – and presumably actively to improve and broaden – Acord data standards. We will then need to ensure that any new or upgraded insurer systems can feed the aggregators. We can achieve that by enlisting the top ten or twenty underwriting-software vendors to ensure platforms are ‘London Data Ready’, and developing a kitemark which confirms everything is close to plug-and-play. That in turn will spark a bonfire of the Q&B portals. Quotech tools work impressively well, but only when they are used. I had to tell my potential customer that Quotech could, but we won’t. Happily we are now exploring next-generation connectivity solutions that leave the old quote-and-bind portal tech behind, and make life easier for everyone.