Look at almost every other industry and you will see technology employed as a common tool for the benefit of the customer rather than as a tool of competitive advantage. The car industry shares one system with its suppliers. By sharing a common system with the supply chain, the supply chain's costs are reduced for everyone. If the suppliers had to maintain seven different IT systems, the overheads would hurt everyone and, ultimately, the customer.
So it makes sense to share, and fight out the real battles in core competencies like product innovation, sales and service.
Oddly enough, the London Market seems to be closer to the sharing ideal than most. London Market Principles - a way of using electronic slips to write risks and then store them - is available and has the backing of most. Usage is not great currently, brokers have their work cut out just placing risks at the moment, rather than worrying about using newfangled slip systems. And with policy wordings being used more creatively post-11 September, brokers are understandably sticking to the slips they know and can control.
The big three London Market brokers are divided over who owns the space where risks are stored. Willis seems happy with the market's repository, while Aon and Marsh are looking to develop their own storage systems.
As with most topics these days, there is an Financial Services Authority (FSA) angle or compliance issue. Directors of insurance companies are still working out what risks they carry within their own organisations under the Financial Services and Markets Act. Why would they take on more risk through a third party association developing an IT system? This would surely generate more difficult questions about risks and who is responsible for them.