The good news coming out of the ACORD-LOMA Insurance Systems Forum, held May 22-24 in Orlando, Fla., is: The role of standards is strong and growing for top-ranking carriers. The not-so-good news is: For many other carriers, it's still a struggle to get buy-in for standards from the business side.According to a survey conducted by ACORD of its top 25 members-chosen based on A.M. Best data for premiums and market penetration-90% currently have a strategy in place to implement ACORD standards and 93% have plans to do so this year.

Top carriers are using ACORD standards for internal integration. When asked whether they are being used for internal or external integration projects, only 7% use ACORD standards strictly for internal connectivity, 39% use them for external only, and the majority (54%) use the standards for both internal and external integration.

When asked which ACORD standards they have implemented, the numbers show that members are actively using more than one standard specification:

* AL3 for Property & Casualty (35%)

* XML for Property & Casualty (35%)

* XML for Life & Annuity (50%)

* XML for Reinsurance (23%)

* EDI for Reinsurance (27%)

ACORD Standardized Form use was relatively even with 23% using P&C Forms and 19% using the newly released Life & Annuity Forms.

"The survey shows that (high-ranking) members are embedding standards as part of their strategies as well as actively planning and implementing ACORD standards," said Denise Garth, vice president, membership and development, ACORD. "They have proved that ACORD standards are a strategic part of an enterprise data architecture for both IT and business."

For many other carriers, however, proving the business case for ACORD standards appears to be more difficult.

Of the more than 500 audience members at an ACORD-LOMA general session CIO panel, 55% noted they did not yet have a corporate industry standards policy or strategy in place. Further, 54% said they seldom obtain C-level sponsorship for ACORD industry standards (see page 10).

In response to the answer, panelist Charles McCaig, CIO of Chubb Group of Insurance Cos., Warren, N.J., noted that obtaining buy-in means being accountable.

"Executives ask, 'What is the benefit?' What has changed is the understanding, from an internal basis, for the need to tie business systems together, especially as it's driven by Sarbanes-Oxley."

Barbara Koster, chief information officer at Prudential, Newark, N.J., told the audience: "You have to educate your business around the standards and why they are important."

When asked whether non-IT executives understand the role of ACORD industry standards, 55% answered "seldom," which prompted panelists to offer the audience first-hand advice.

"We work hard to educate the business side," said panelist Robert Gorski, vice president and chief information officer at XL Reinsurance, Stamford, Conn. "We tell them that taking a standards approach is cost-effective."

Prudential's Koster advised the audience to offer a specific example to management that sells the concept, such as the importance of getting consulting partners and vendors to speak the same language.

"Organize your business side around your architecture," she said. "Standards help us integrate our architecture."

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