Commercial Lines Workflow Set to Transform

By: Michael Spiar, Broker Relations & Communications Specialist | Ontario Broker, October 2018

Change is coming to Commercial Lines. That’s because the broker channel is moving forward to implement Commercial Lines data standards, a development that promises to speed up the process of quoting, underwriting, and servicing Commercial policies.

CSIO data standards are well established in Personal Lines, and as a result, the differences in workflow between the two lines of business are significant. In Personal Lines, broker management system (BMS) vendors and carrier systems use the CSIO data standards to exchange policy information. Efficiencies are realized because much of the work to analyze and underwrite policies is handled behind the scenes. Policy information downloads to your BMS and eDocs attaches to the client file.

Until now, workflow in Commercial Lines has been more manual. There is little consistency in how brokers send client information to carriers when obtaining quotes. Some carriers use online portals while others require that brokers send a proprietary form over email. Sometimes, brokers even send information typed in an email, resulting in more work for Commercial underwriters. Further, there is no Commercial data download, so the broker’s BMS does not populate with current policy data. Without policy data, there is no client file in the BMS, meaning brokers need to manually attach commercial eDocs.

“The difference between Personal Lines and Commercial Lines is night and day,” says Ashley Holmes, Operations Manager at Roughley Insurance Brokers, a CSIO Technology Leader and IBAO’s 2017 Young Broker of the Year. “Data standards would go a long way towards bringing Commercial Lines workflow into the 21st century, enabling brokers to offer better service to customers. I would estimate it spends up to half of the team’s time transferring and updating data, and this is challenging if you have multiple platforms like a Commercial system besides your BMS.”

Understanding the standards

CSIO’s XML data standards for Commercial Lines are up-to-date, robust and ready to be programmed. To help understand the best way forward in implementing Commercial Lines data standards, CSIO commissioned the Conference Board of Canada to conduct extensive industry consultation through a broker focus group, phone interviews with carrier executives and vendors, and a thorough survey of brokerages.

The study found that 91% of brokers said they are more likely to work with carriers who have implemented data standards. Use of the standards would enable consistent workflow, faster and more accurate information exchange, and reduced double-entry. However, the study also found that due to the complexity of commercial risks and the investment required to program the standards, broad industry support is needed to ensure widespread adoption among carriers, vendors, and brokers.

The Conference Board recommended a phased approach, beginning with an inclusive industry effort to define a common strategy for implementing Commercial Lines data standards.

First step: the minimum data set

In summer 2018, CSIO launched a working group focused on advancing the implementation of Commercial Lines data standards. The working group includes broker representation through the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada (IBAC) as well as participation from a diverse group of 12 carriers across Canada.

The group’s aim is to define the minimum data elements that are common and consistent for Commercial packages. This compact data set is not an application form, as it can be a starting point for carriers and vendors to program systems: over the long-term, the data set would reduce future development time, investment and e‑ ort industry-wide.

“We see the benefits of data standards in Personal Lines every day – reduced double-entry, less paperwork, faster quotes, and improved customer service,” says Kim Opheim, Broker Technology & Innovation Consultant at IBAC. “In arriving at a minimum data set with the participation of so many diverse carriers, we are one step closer to transforming Commercial Lines workflow for the broker channel in Canada.”

“These working groups are a fantastic example of what our industry can achieve when we work together and collaborate,” says Brian Warkentin, Assistant Vice President at Aviva. “Data standards will allow us to digitize several Commercial insurance transactions. The progress we made in a few months has the potential to benefit the entire broker channel for years to come.”

Benefits for brokers

The dataset will need to be programmed by both carriers and BMS vendors: once that happens, Commercial brokers should see immediate improvements in their daily operations. Like their counterparts in Personal Lines, Commercial brokers will perform more work in their BMS and use more consistent workflows that apply to more carriers. With less variation, the workflow will be simpler and less prone to human error. This seamless interaction and use of structured data will automate aspects of the underwriting and rating process, resulting in faster quotes – especially for package policies. Brokers will better serve their customers.

Today’s customers value brokers able to provide them with fast and convenient service. Commercial Lines data standards will allow brokers to find relevant information, particularly policy details, and will improve brokers’ ability to digitally service and meet their customers’ evolving expectations.

One of the most significant benefits will be the eventual download of Commercial policy data from carriers to their BMS. The minimum data set will ensure that brokers have valuable customer information at their fingertips. Commercial eDocs could then attach to the client file without manual intervention, resulting in further cost and time savings for brokers.

“Commercial Lines are overdue for this kind of transformation,” adds Holmes. “Standardization in Commercial Lines will help brokers become more competitive and provide better service to their customers. I welcome progress in this area and look forward to future developments that continue to push forward in digitizing Commercial Lines business.”

CSIO will continue to collaborate with its members to implement the minimum data set, which will serve as a foundation for future improvements in the ease of doing Commercial Lines business within the broker distribution channel in Canada.