Powerplace chief executive Nick Giddings on the digital solutions for insurers and brokers

This year has been a big year for Open GI and PowerPlace, with the launch of our new commercial lines strategy and solutions being one of the most significant highlights.

Since the launch over the summer, an array of topics have become particularly important to us including; brokers’ adoption of integrated e-trading, its evolution with insurers and also the increase in the number of brokers opting to consolidate elements of their book of business through integrated e-trading.

Integrated vs other routes – is there a difference?

Through our own specific broker events (which were sponsored by Polaris), it became clear that brokers are becoming more receptive to the benefits of integrated e-trading, in particular multiple products via single key, comparing price and more importantly comparing cover levels.

Despite the strong advantages, however, there was still some apprehension in the air when compared with going direct to an insurer extranet. Specifically, brokers felt that integrated e-trading may not give them the ability to discuss risks or facilitate their own terms or deals.

To challenge these observations we are working alongside the insurers to demonstrate the power of integrated e-trading to the broker market.

The clear message insurers have vocalised and are endorsing is that integrated solutions, such as PowerPlace SME, will provide brokers with access to the same products and pricing that is also available via their own extranets.

The added advantage of an integrated approach equips brokers with the benefit of multiple quotations, comparison and the all-important back-office integration. Insurers, in particular, fully appreciate and understand the importance to brokers in having an efficient and cost-effective way of working in today’s competitive marketplace.

Integrated e-trading: insurers’ pledge

Integrated e-trading has significantly evolved over the last 18 months. On top of the technological advances, insurers are making further improvements to ensure brokers have the same level of service and support irrespective of whether they choose an integrated or direct e-trading approach.

Dedicated e-trading teams are now on hand for brokers, who will be able to handle both software house and extranet queries. For brokers who want the flexibility to get the best cover and price for their customers, this is a fantastic opportunity.

To consolidate or not?

Integrated e-trading is also starting to follow the previous trend within some SME lines of business. The increase in brokers opting to consolidate their book of business in return for efficiency gains and, in some circumstances, bespoke terms is now on the rise.

The ultimate objective for brokers after all is to retain SME clients as well as attract new ones.

Consolidating a book of business can open up many more opportunities. For example, it can allow brokers to agree preferential rates with their chosen insurer or panel of insurers, and agree specific enhanced policy cover and commission terms. All of which can be achieved through integrated e-trading.

The success of consolidation onto integrated e-trading solutions, to generate the required efficiencies to manage micro and small SME customers (where pressure on premiums is highest), will be dependent on client communication. Brokers should adopt a strategy where they take the opportunity to gather client information at any point of contact during the year.

It is vital not to wait until the renewal process to sense check customer information, to be in a position to be able to re-market a risk. This will help to ensure the most timely renewal process, including a clearly evidenced Treating Customers Fairly approach to the process itself. In the end the best way to retain customers is by offering them the most appropriate and competitively priced cover upfront to deter them from shopping around.

Adapt to the market

There are so many developments in the pipeline at the moment that are being accompanied by a real shift in the dynamics of the SME marketplace. It is important that brokers continue to adapt to changing consumer attitudes and behaviours while maintaining strong relationships with insurers to maximise the opportunity that the commercial lines distribution chain can offer.

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