If you have a PC, you can be in the big broker league. Broker system Acturis quotes, manages and reports on client accounts with optional modules for training, compliance and performance measurement.
Ian Ritchie checks it out

The broker community has been besieged with new technology products over the last year or so.

The long-term traditional players have updated their propositions. New entrants have emerged, often to retreat, retrench, or withdraw altogether. The dotcom boom has come and gone.

Against that backdrop, Acturis, led by ex-McKinsey men Theo Duchen and David McDonald, has quietly developed its system and the current version garnered substantial interest at last month's Biba conference in Manchester.

A quick glance at its prospectus will tell you that its broker development partners include Bland Bankart, The Beckett Group, Layton Blackham and Smart & Cook. As everyone in the market recognises these brokers as significant players, it would be easy to make the assumption that the system is aimed at the `big boys'.

All access
Not so, as Theo Duchen explains: "The system is based on an ASP - meaning that those wishing to adopt it do not have the high capital cost outlay of another box in the corner of the office. The broker simply connects to the system via the internet and accesses its own information from the central servers. This makes the system as available to the smaller broker or start-up, as to the established, more substantial firms."

PCs and internet access are all that are needed to use the system. This also enables authorised staff to work remotely, or from home.

So what is likely to attract a firm considering migration from an ageing system to Acturis?

The company has spent considerable time with both development partner brokers and insurer partners, which include AXA, Allianz, Fortis and Norwich Union, to ensure the system is as broker-friendly as possible, while also addressing insurers' technology needs.

The driver behind this was the research carried out in the early days, which highlighted the high transactional cost of trading in the traditional ways, as well as the potential for re-keying errors.

The end result has been to produce, for the broker, the creation of client data at the quotation stage, which will then become the record if the quotation is accepted. From this single entry, quotes can be obtained from insurers, instructions confirmed to insurers once the order is placed and all the subsequent policy management and accounting can flow without the need to re-key.

System features
The dialogue with the partners has resulted in a comprehensive request for quote (RFQ) concept, using ABI/Polaris standard descriptions where applicable. Once the data is captured from the client, it is despatched to insurers for quotation in a uniform manner, along with all the information that individual insurers may seek. If it is possible to obtain quotations electronically, the system will handle this.

However, for most mid-range commercial quotations, communication is by email, which, in current market conditions, still places the broker at the whim of insurer service. However, as technology is used more at the quotation stage, there will eventually be clear savings of both cost and time. Code is being developed to allow Acturis to `talk' to insurer systems directly.

Once the risk is placed, all the usual record-keeping and policy management information is put in place. Here again, one can see the influence of brokers at the development stage. Items that make the broker's life easier, such as the recording of any interested or connected parties, also feature. These can include introducers or agents, such as well as adjusters and solicitors in the claims area. There is the facility to centrally store the details of such companies and pull the information across into a client record.

One notable omission is a direct debit facility, common to many computers. Within the accounting function, the facility to manage VAT is present, where this may be applicable to fee earnings, or where additional services are supplied.

The system will handle all means of premium payment but, in addition, it gives the broker the opportunity to develop its own instalment scheme.

Other features include workflow management, the ability to create own-product criteria, and a comprehensive range of management reporting

The Product Builder system makes it easy to create bespoke products and to produce system-driven quotations and point-of-sale documentation - clearly an attraction for scheme or affinity brokers.

Management method
The management reporting module generates reports on every aspect of business performance. These reports can include sales performance, conversion rate of quotes, business mix and loss ratios.

The system can be set so that these are automatically generated at predetermined times, with the information delivered directly to the receiver's mailbox.

This information can also be despatched to appropriate third parties, such as an insurer partner on a scheme, or cash flow information delivered to the bank.

There is also the opportunity to anonymously share performance data with other users. If this is done, the broker's business performance can then be measured against other contributors and benchmarked accordingly.

Once there are a number of users, some of these comparisons could form useful additional management information detailing performance against other users.Being a Windows-based environment, system training should be straightforward.

There is a compulsory basic training (CBT) module that is used for initial training, and also to enable the broker subsequently to train new recruits. Having

taken the trainee through various processes, there are tests, the results of which can be sent electronically to the trainer, which could be useful in a multi-office environment.

The tests give a percentage score, report on weaknesses and also penalise spelling or keying errors, helping to encourage 100% accuracy. Such information can then form part of an individual's training plan, which will help with General Insurance Standards Council (GISC) or Financial Services Authority (FSA) compliance.

Robust procedures
There is a complaints module which again, with brokers having to consider more robust procedures for future regulatory compliance, may prove to be valuable.

Acturis bases its pricing on numbers of users and charges monthly. This means a growing firm can introduce additional users at its own pace, and pay only for what is required. The ASP model avoids the need for any capital outlay by the broker other than the availability of suitable PCs.