5 barriers to effective underwriter/broker collaboration

Balancing different commercial agendas between intermediaries and carriers will always make working together to achieve win-win terms a challenge.  Understanding and allowing your counterpart’s business objectives and limitations to influence your negotiations can, in turn, be used to drive your own objectives. What else enables an easy profitable and efficient working relationship? Here are a few things that have been brought to my attention…

1.            Info exchange

Broker submissions

Supporting information of the appropriate detail, length or format is still top of underwriters’ agendas. The London Market Group is enabling this process to be more uniform as part of the Market Reform Contract (MRC) to support broker and underwriter information sharing. Here’s what they say about the standard form of submissions, in their own words:

‘It offers a clear structure and means that brokers present contracts in a consistent manner. This in turn adds clarity to the broker/underwriter discussion and thus enhances the efficiency of the placing process… ensuring the content was aligned with the needs of contract certainty.’

Too little or messy information makes a valid underwriting judgement harder to achieve as well as increasing the risk of non-disclosure of material fact. On top of that reducing requests for further information, drawing out the process, benefits both parties.

Carrier service improved

Regular face-to-face meetings or phone calls, I’m told, are still the best way of maintaining good service levels and ensuring your incoming broker proposals are actually the business you write. That and up to date appetite lists are expected but not always delivered. The real benefit in maintaining these standards is the time freed up for carrier admin teams – when they are not wading through and logging unnecessary emails and proposals they can provide more support elsewhere.

2.            ACORD know how

At the April ACORD club, presentations were made by messaging champions from ACE, ACORD, Lloyd’s and Morning Data. They outlined the need for the market to improve the electronic exchange of structured data between brokers and underwriters. The best way for the market to do this? Full engagement from underwriters AND brokers with ACORD standard messaging.

Lloyd’s commissioned a proof of concept for messaging with the LMA (London Market Association) for their MRC (Market Reform Contract). Despite Lloyd’s working with a software provider and a number of brokers to develop a prototype, (North American Property MRC, Marine MRC and a MRCE), and it being established it could be successfully used in practice –  the London Market Modernisation Activity report  states there needs to be a market ‘pull’ and greater broker appetite for further investment.

Benefits of ACORD standard messaging:

  • Structured ACORD compliant data is automatically produced
  • The broker’s output is a PDF or Word version and an XML file containing the data
  • Human error is eliminated as broker and underwriter systems communicate directly
  • Time is saved on both sides by preventing the need for re-keying
  • If the broker changes any of the details, the underlying data will be updated and reflected in a new version

3. Market initiatives?

The commercially dynamic nature of the market brings huge advantages from free competition, diversity and innovation but is a major disadvantage when trying to address areas of common carrier and broker interest i.e. efficient collaboration.

Higher transactional costs come from DIY local methods of working which are continually resorted to after the failure of what is supposed to be ‘The Next Big Thing’. For example the “Darwin’s” “EPS’s” and “Blue Mountain’s” that inevitably make businesses sceptical about what truly is innovation and what is an expensive idea lacking in long term benefit or buy-in.

4. Solution to ‘sticking plaster’ systems

Poor systems selection based on historic requirements rather than future needs and poor systems integration with legacy systems are top pitfalls to avoid for future broker/ underwriter communication quality. Being blindsided by one new feature when the system doesn’t have the ability to support new distribution channels traps companies in the past –making it difficult to switch capital to new products, lines or geographies to ‘balance the books’ and create profit.

Attempts to expand into new classes or creating new or different products often result in ‘sticking plaster’ systems.

If you look at the retail industry, for example, those who remain profitable are forward looking with highly integrated systems strategies with flexible distribution channels to market. Those who have failed to bring together all of the operational and technology threads and ignore future channels are ending up with the liquidator.

Replicating a retail model for insurance would mean a fully integrated system that handles delegated authority, subscription and remote web-based products through an integrated broker portal.

This would make document, communications and policy details accessible for carriers and brokers to refer to, preventing unnecessary disputes and slowing of work. Reduced data transit time means more time to underwrite and broke deals.  The other benefit is all downstream activities premiums, claims and accounts are joined up in straight through processing.

RiskWrite features

RiskWrite case studies

5.            Doorstep advantage

From what I’ve experienced the ease of socialising with people in the London Market is taken as a given. Whether you started out with a stamp on the trading floor or have grown used to the culture sliding over from another industry, the proximity, as we all know, is a unique competitive feature.

London Market locality, however, increases the competition on your doorstep as well as your opportunity to take advantage of it. Are you making the most of networking with NEW people? Introducing yourself to people outside of your existing outlook contacts? I’m pretty new to insurance, so I want to translate face-to-face opportunities into potential long term commercial relationships/friendships.

My new goal? To follow up introductions more effectively off and online. For example, that interesting conversation I had with X at BIBA results in them as a new LinkedIn connection, someone I listen to on Twitter, invite to events and maybe, just maybe, them remembering Sabrefish when they need a new eInsurance system…

To arrange a demonstration or find out more, call 01923 312 366 or email info@sabrefish.com

Top 10 Lloyd’s, Coverholder & London Market quotes of the last year

Novae recently published their ‘Looking forward’ industry survey where they interviewed senior level influencers in the insurance industry to gauge their present and prospective analysis. It got me thinking, as I remember listening to Lloyd’s CEO Richard Ward present at the Xchanging London Market conference last year. Richard highlighted findings from that year’s annual PWC CEO Survey of insurance CEO’s finding that:

‘Nearly half of Insurance CEOs believe that the economy will continue to get worse over the next 12 months.’ Yet the report also found ‘90% are confident about improving their company’s revenues over the next 12 months’ (2012)

Compare that to this year and optimism still stands (despite austerity’s stronghold):

2013 saw ‘39% of Insurance CEOs are very confident about their ability to increase revenue over the next 12 months, and a further 49% are somewhat confident.’

Are you as confident in your organisation’s success? What has the industry been saying over the past year about the market and what will shape profit now and in the future? And most importantly, what are your competitors hearing and acting upon?

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Quotes

“Lloyd’s should continue to innovate and focus on product development and new lines and innovate and keep it close to business. And they should seek to resist the homogenisation of all syndicates.”
Novae ‘Looking Forward’ industry survey – February 2013

“The benefits of moving from a paper dominated community into the electronic age are manifold; speed, transparency, the development within each insurer and broker of KPI’s, the opportunity to better articulate and differentiate the value of performance, communication. The London subscription market will always have as its corner stone face-to-face negotiation – but as a practical matter technology provides a magnificent medium for better, quicker more auditable communication”
Barnabas Hurst Bannister, Chair of the London Market Group, Xchanging London Market Conference – September 2012

“It’s an interesting change from a few years ago, when it’s fair to say people were turning their noses up at delegating authority, giving the pen away. Now there is an acceptance that it’s the way to get good quality, high-volume, low-value business.”
Peter Montanaro, Head of Delegated Authorities, Lloyd’s, MGAA – April 2012

‘’It is imperative you get multi channel distribution correct, understand the relative importance of each channel and be intuitive to the future purchasing decisions of your customers – as well as investing time and energy in a unique proposition that adds genuine value and therefore provides longevity through, beyond the market cycle…’’
Dan Martin, Head of UK Regional Development, Catlin Underwriting Agencies, Sabrefish MGA event (formerly Salmon) – September 2012

“Technology is becoming part of the decision making process when people select a broker, MGA or underwriter as a partner”
Peter Montanaro, Head of Delegated Authorities, Lloyd’s, Sabrefish Insurance event (formally Salmon) – May 2012

“The UK is the leading exporter of financial services across the globe. The UK insurance industry is the largest in Europe and third largest in the world. The London insurance market is the most sophisticated insurance market on the planet”
Steve Hearn, Chairman & CEO, Willis Global, Xchanging London Market Conference – September 2012  

“The infrastructure is here in London, the talent is here, the subscription market is here, and brokers like it. Lloyd’s is more secure than it has ever been. Investors understand Lloyd’s now.”
Novae ‘Looking Forward’ industry survey – February 2013

 “Nexus Group (are) on course to become the largest independent managing general agency (MGA) in the London Market.”
Intelligent Insurer – March 2013

 “The underwriter who delegates ill-advisedly to a bad MGA has nobody to blame but himself. They should look at themselves because they gave their pen away. Somebody or something persuaded them to enter into that arrangement. I never blamed a broker for broking bad business to me. I only ever blamed myself for writing it.”
Reg Brown, Chairman, MGAA, Insurance Day – July 2012

 “If you have an MGA, as a broker or underwriter, you hold much more information about the nook that you write and it means you can work closer with insurers to ensure their profitability and enhanced cover for your clients. It is a relationship that a business of our size needs with insurers. Gone are the days where you just go in there and negotiate on commission.”
Robert Organ, Chief Financial Officer, Bluefin, Insurance Times – March 2013