Stamford, Conn., - While property and casualty insurers need to implement the same standards to provide real-time transactions for brokers and agents, survey results by Gartner, Inc. show that many insurers have been slow in offering the technologies necessary to implement these transactions.A Gartner survey of 72 members of the Council of Independent Agents and Brokers (CIAB) conducted between January and April of 2005 showed that agents and brokers prefer to do business with insurers that provide real-time transaction capabilities to better service policy holders. However, adoption of single-entry multiple-carrier interfaces (SEMCIs), which enable distributors to send and receive data seamlessly, continues to lag among insurers and distributors.

According to the survey, only 32% of respondents use SEMCI to enter data and communicate with multiple insurers for quoting, issuing policies and handling policyholder inquiries. This can be attributed to the fact that only 24% of insurers currently support SEMCI.

Gartner analysts said that by providing a single workflow interface, agents and brokers can spend more time selling insurance and less time keying data into agency management systems.

"Having real-time transaction capabilities means policyholder inquiries can be addressed immediately, as opposed to waiting several days or even a week for an answer," says Kimberly Harris-Ferrante, research vice president at Gartner. "It will be impossible to drive agent loyalty without adequate investment in technologies to support real-time information availability and transaction capability."

While financial stability is the most important characteristic in determining the insurer with which distributors choose to work, the availability of information and use of new technologies is critical, according to the survey. Agents and brokers ranked both the accessibility of electronic documents and forms, and the ability to support straight‑through processing of applications, as highly important in driving distributors to sell insurance products, especially among independent agents and brokers. These factors were ranked much higher than the visibility of quota, incentive and compensation information, and the ability to prepopulate issuance forms with quoting data.

While a single workflow interface is important to distributors, many insurers do not view a single workflow as beneficial. "Insurers want to provide their distribution partners with tools that allow ease of doing business, as long as it does not allow ease of doing business with their competitors," Harris-Ferrante says. "Convincing insurers that a single workflow solution is in the best interest of all parties requires agency/broker leadership in a unified voice with the support of their associations and workgroups."

In addition to improved distributor and customer satisfaction, Gartner analysts said insurers will find benefits such as improved productivity, increased efficiency and reduced transaction costs.

"The use of content management solutions, exchanges, Web services and data standards will help streamline and improve agent-carrier transactions, and ultimately help sustain competitiveness for property and casualty insurers," says Stephen Forte, senior research analyst at Gartner.

Additional information is available in the Gartner research report entitled "SEMCI Presents a Real-Time Challenge for P&C Insurers."

Source:  Gartner Inc.

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