When I asked Frank Cerne, publisher and editor of this magazine, for feedback on the article I wrote in this issue on agents' slow adoption of real-time carrier interfaces ("Agents Are Not Yet Sold On Real-Time," see cover), Frank said, "It sounds like there's a lot of finger-pointing going on."That's precisely the conclusion I drew too-after speaking with several carriers, the two major agency management systems vendors, a few agent user group representatives and ACORD.

Carriers are disappointed because agents aren't rapidly adopting the real-time transactions they have provided within the agency management systems. Agency management systems competitors AMS and Applied Systems are engaged in a new battle over AMS' recently launched TransactNOW, which does not require carriers to use open ACORD XML standards (as IVANS Transformation Station does). And agents are frustrated by yet another twist in technology that not only confuses them, but also seems to confirm their suspicions that never shall the carriers and agency management systems vendors meet to make single-entry, multi-carrier interface (SEMCI) a reality.

It will be interesting to see how real-time carrier/agency transactions progress. At press time, a couple of sources pointed fingers at carriers, claiming they were trying to form a working group to modify ACORD standards in response to AMS' TransactNOW, which interacts with the carriers' already-deployed Web sites.

According to one source who wishes to remain anonymous, carriers at a recent AMS user group meeting were "sitting around rubbing their hands together, saying, 'We've won. We've got 'em out of their agency management systems and into our Web sites where we want 'em. Now we're going to re-architect the standards to keep 'em there."

Rick Gilman, vice president of ACORD, knew nothing about the formation of such a working group. And executives I spoke to at insurance companies that support both IVANS Transformation Station and TransactNOW said they will continue to support ACORD XML standards.

Another finger pointed to carriers, noting that until March, they were not seriously marketing the availability of real-time transactions within agency management systems to their agents. Several sources said agents have called them to tell them that a carrier's field rep just visited their agency and knew nothing about such capabilities.

Hearing all these stories made me realize: If I were an agent, I'd be frustrated too. For example, I tried to find a single comprehensive list of all the carriers providing real-time transactions within agency management systems, which transactions they provide and in which agency management systems-and such a list does not exist. When I asked several people why such a list does not exist, I was told that carriers view these capabilities as a competitive advantage and do not want everyone to know what they're doing.

Now, however, carriers, ACORD, agency associations, and the agency management vendors and user groups all claim to be coming together to educate and urge agents to adopt these transactions and support carriers' efforts. "Use it or lose it," they say.

Will the various stakeholders set aside their own self-interests to fully support open ACORD standards that will benefit the industry at-large?

Stay tuned.

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