Unlike previous industry attempts to standardize data exchanges between carriers, agents and third-party partners, it appears that XML is the real deal. Still, the industry has a long way to go before support for ACORD XML turns into widespread adoption.ACORD's XML specifications-covering property/casualty, life, and reinsurance- were designed for transferring data across firewalls, but some carriers are exploring use of the standards as a cost-effective internal integration tool for extracting data from legacy systems. In addition to controlling costs and opening access, such internal data integration capabilities may also help companies meet growing demands from regulators for increased accountability in internal operations.

After a slow start, support for the ACORD XML standards is now widespread across the industry. Nearly 87% of life carriers and 94% of P&C carriers are investigating and eventually plan to adopt ACORD XML standards in some fashion, according to a survey conducted last year by Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Research Inc.

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