Speculation has grown that cracks are beginning to appear in the £28m I2i-link initiative after its late withdrawal from the British Insurance Brokers' Association (Biba) Conference in Belfast.
I2i-link's managing director Helen O'Dea was due to address the conference and Misys, the technology company behind the initiative, was due to host an exhibition stand.
Misys formed I2i-link last year with Allianz Cornhill, Axa, Groupama, Norwich Union, Royal & Sunalliance and Zurich. Misys owns 50% of I2i-link and the insurers share the other half.
I2i-link's aim is to establish an industry portal to make the insurance companies' products available to brokers.
But the initiative has not managed to attract any other insurers or software houses and recently there has been talk that the insurance companies want to take on Misys's share.
An industry insider said: “Insurers have realised that Misys has to be a supplier, not a partner.”
He claimed that I2i-link's non-attendance at the conference was linked to the insurance companies wanting Misys to take a less
prominent role in the initiative.
I2i-link's business model has been questioned since it was set up. Other software houses have asked why they should have to modify their technology to fit in with the I2i-link portal if there is nothing in it for them.
And other insurance companies are thought to be nervous about the access their rivals could have to their data.
Misys denied it would be taking a back seat in I2i-link. “It is a 50/50 venture that was set up from the start and it is not up to them to put pressure on us,” a company spokesman said. But he conceded: “We accept it's running a bit late, so it's not going perfectly.”
Manjit Rana, ICL's head of insurance e-business, said an industry portal had to be seen as truly independent to be viable. “They've got to convince everyone that they're levelling the playing field,” he said.
He added: “It is not the technology that causes internet initiatives to fail, but the business model.”
According to Mike Williams, Biba's chief executive, I2i-link pulled out about a week before the conference, saying there were delays in the project and it would be better not to attend. “It was slightly short notice,” Williams said.
Misys claimed O'Dea had other commitments. But I2i-link has been promoting its presence at the conference and O'Dea's speech for some time.
Colin Calder, Axa's broker development manager, stood in for O'Dea.
Calder said of I2i-link: “If we talk before we're ready, we're promising and that's the story of dot.com. “We'd rather get it right and talk about the reality.”
And Norwich Union, the representative for the insurers in I2i-link, said: “Given that this was a broker conference it seemed appropriate for Colin Calder to represent I2i-link.”