With a new, open-platform ecommerce system, insurE-com expects to integrate with standard back office technology. Alaric Nightingale finds out how this web-savvy system fits in.

Q What is InsurE-com?

A InsurE-com is an IT company that focuses on the development and supply of internet ecommerce systems to the insurance and financial services industries. We have developed a new and open approach that utilises the internet. We have taken proven technology and put it together in such a way that we can significantly improve the flow, control and management of information across the traditional supply chain of insurers, on the one hand, and intermediaries, on the other.

Q What are the technological building blocks of your systems?

A InsurE-com's systems have been built using robust Microsoft technology, including Windows 2000, SQL7, IIS 5, Visual Basic 6 and XML (eXtensible Mark-up Language), the emerging standard. The security aspect is also extremely important to us. Through our various partnerships, we can ensure that network security, data integrity, system reliability and future scalability will be managed in accordance with our best-of-breed policy.

Q Do any of these packages provide brokers with a back office system?

A Our open approach using the technology building blocks mentioned allows providers of back office systems to integrate their products into the InsurE-com infrastructure.

Q So does that mean that your system can integrate with the back office systems from Misys, CSC, Policy Master, NMT, Broker Soft, MSC, Insurance Mall, Promark, Cheshire Datasystems and all the others? Are all of these companies in agreement about integrating their systems with yours?

A Our objective is not to adopt the various traditional technologies that are still around. Instead, we make our technology available to all those third-party providers that wish to integrate with the InsurE-com platform. Integration with our platform is only possible using the latest technological building blocks and will not work with obsolete systems that rely on UNIX and DOS.

InsurE-com technologies utilise VPN for security, privacy & reliability; MSMQ for transactional integrity; SOAP (Simple Object Application Protocol) and the XML business-to-business data interchange standard for ensuring compatibility with such industry-wide standards as Polaris.

But the traditional software house back offices offer accounting, scheduling, reporting, database manipulation, workflow management, policy management, word processing, diary management, links to the DVLC; the list is endless. The costs are fairly high for these services, but the value seems evident.

Q Can InsurE-com provide brokers with a packaged back office system that includes these things? If not, can it integrate with any existing providers?

A InsurE-com's strategy does not and has never included the provision of a back office system. However, our open platform enables the providers of traditional back office systems to integrate their products accordingly. Our vision for the back office of the future is to integrate to virtual, web-based facilities that are being provided by the newcomers to the market. This will continue to reduce the overall associated costs for the broker. InsurE-com believes that the product distribution and quotation process is moving away from traditional software houses.

Q Are there web-based back office suppliers who will soon launch in the insurance sector? And if so, who? Also, what will InsurE-com do while it waits for these companies to launch?

A Any forward-thinking company with an interest in this sector will be considering their options. InsurE-com already has a carefully planned strategy in place that naturally focuses on how to maximise the infrastructure of the internet and integrate with various traditional back office providers, as well as new initiatives such as Cover.Net. InsurE-com is not a company that waits for others. We welcome the opportunity to work with any back office provider.

Q A lot of people say the internet is massively over-hyped. Software house Policy Master does not charge for EDI transactions, effectively only charging for back office supply and rate updates. So how can InsurE-com bring costs down for brokers?

A We do agree that Policy Master had the foresight to see that EDI transaction charges are being phased out over time. However, the insurE-com approach is free to the intermediary and does not charge for rate updates, EDI transactions or back office supply, with obvious cost reductions to the intermediary.

Q How much does this cost insurers?

A That depends on how much business is written via the InsurE-com system. We simply charge a small percentage for every positive premium generated. We do not charge for negative or zero premium transactions.

Q And how exactly are products created? There has been confusion about whether they are written using the Polaris dictionary.

A InsurE-com and Polaris have agreed to integrate the Polaris rating engine (RunTime Environment, or RTE) into the InsurE-com system. The use of Polaris software will give insurE-com's intermediaries ready access to a range of schemes from all major UK insurers.