AXA claims to have won the race to provide single-key commercial line products. Christine Seib looks at competition now and in the future

What's the system:Businessrisk can be accessed through AXA's extranet at

What products are available online?
Flats, shops, property owners, Contractors' Choice, Business Plan Plus (small commercial), Commercial Combined, Venture

Plus (sole traders) and Solo Plus Gold (a derivative for Countrywide)

Are there discounts for brokers who trade online?
"No, at this stage we think the benefits are in the process itself," says commercial distribution director Mark Cliff.

"It saves brokers the considerable time they would usually spend chasing up insurers."

Can brokers issue documents instantly?
Documents can be printed in the brokers' office.

Is it single-key?
"We're the only ones to offer a true single-key system," Cliff said.

"We've achieved full end-to-end connectivity through our work with Sirius and Acturis.

"This means the broker only keys in the information once, then it goes into the broker's back-office and our back-office."

Does it offer any special features?
"We're the only insurer with commercial combined available online," he said

"And we're the only ones that have the dialogue product online, which allows the broker to enter a risk then have an interface with their local underwriter so they can discuss it.

"The broker sets a deadline for when they need the quote back, which they can also have online.

"The simpler products like flats, shops and Venture Plus are all auto-rated."

Royal & SunAlliance (R&SA)
What's the system:

Royal & SunAlliance's (R&SA) Business Partner Extranet can be accessed at , which leads to the Enterprise site.

R&SA is also working on the Polaris E-Market initiative to widen access to online trading.

What products are available online?
Online quotes and cover confirmation are available on office, van and business car policies. Quote submissions are available on shop, property owners, small business combined and contractors, which are underwritten in the Enterprise centres.

Are there discounts for brokers who trade online?
There is a 5% premium discount on van and business car policies and a lower premium on office.

Can brokers issue documents instantly?
They can be printed in the broker's office.

Is it single-key?
"The website is fully integrated and there is no re-keying by R&SA," small business segment leader Simon Cooter says.

Does it offer any special features?
"The Business Partner Extanet contacts a wide range of valuable risk management information that has been tailored to the needs of the small business community," he says.

This includes health and safety, prevention of theft and business continuity planning.

The extranet also has Claims Online, on which brokers can track the status of their claims.


System name:
"Our plan for SMEs is to web-enable our new back office system so it's available to brokers," ecommerce manager (bespoke operations) Ken Hutchinson says.

"It will operate through the e-market portal, which is due to pilot in the first half of 2003, and other routes as well."

The new system is unnamed.

What products are available online?
Currently none, but it is planned that all small package business will be auto-rated with desktop underwriting continuing on other products.

Are there discounts for brokers who trade online?
No decisions made on pricing.

Can brokers issue documents instantly?
"Instant documentation is further down the line, if at all," Hutchinson says.

Is it single-key?
"It will literally be access to our mainframe so there will only be one entry of information," he says.

Does it offer any special features?
"We're just concentrating on getting up and running with online quoting," he says.

System name:

Brokers can trade online at

What products are available online?
Shop, office, hair and beauty, commercial car and goods carrying vehicle.

"We've just extended the online cover options to enable brokers to obtain third party fire and theft online, in addition to comprehensive cover, for small business motor products," a spokeswoman said.

"Plus, we've increased the carrying limit for goods carrying commercial vehicles to 44 tonnes, making it easier for brokers to place more risks online."

Are there discounts for brokers who trade online?
Percentage discounts on the premium are available

Can brokers issue documents instantly?
Documents can be printed in the brokers' office.

Is it single-key?
"Zurich is currently looking at moving towards a single-key system," the spokeswoman said.

Does it offer any special features?
"The site also gives brokers access to their quote history, product information and updates on key issues," she said.

"The site functionality enables brokers to quickly quote for multiple vehicles or properties in one go, saving them time and reducing their workload.

"They can quote for up to four goods carrying commercial vehicles or commercial cars or up to ten shops or offices at a time."

Norwich Union (NU)
A Norwich Union (NU) spokesman said the insurer was unable to answer the six questions posed. It issued a three-paragraph statement:

"NU is currently working closely with brokers and market initiatives on the development of a range of online trading options.

"We recognise that online trading capability is not an optional luxury but a critical element of streamlining business processes."

Product information and policy documentation can be downloaded from NU's e-broking website:


System name:"We're looking to develop a quotation facility for package business by early 2003," sales and marketing manager David Grant says. The initiative is still unnamed.

What products are available online?
Currently none, although product information is available on a password-protected extranet at

Are there discounts for brokers who trade online?
The pricing structure of the online system is still under consideration.

Can brokers issue documents instantly?Also under consideration.

Is it single-key?"We're looking to implement an EDI solution, but there will be several phases of development before we get to that," Grant says.

Does it offer any special features?"Our idea is to make something simple and cost-effective that saves brokers' administration costs," he says.

What IT looks like todayThe current IT landscape is costly for insurers and time-consuming for brokers, IBM says.

Insurers pay to be linked to each broker software vendor's system, forcing brokers to buy several systems so they can access their entire panel, re-keying their information on each.

Meanwhile, the IT capabilities of individual brokers and insurers diverge wildly.

"For the industry to have confidence in electronic commerce, there needs to be a minimum acceptable performance that all the major players live up to," IBM says.

IBM has been commissioned by Polaris to develop E-Market, a market-wide IT initiative that aims to completely automate many insurer-broker transactions.

E-Market is a secure interface for electronic transactions the developers claim will reduce transaction processing costs and improve quality of service.

"The general insurance market is under significant pressure to reduce costs and improve service, especially the intermediated market, where expense ratios are typically higher than for leading direct writers," IBM says.

The system will operate first on commercial lines, a market IBM predicts will have undergone significant change by 2006, with the growth of club brokers, shrinkage of small brokers and new direct sales channels.

The SME market will change the most, as hardening rates attract direct entrants and club brokers take business from small brokers.

IBM says it is vital that IT systems cater for the SME market.

"The opportunity presented by super provincials is further enhanced by focusing on SME business," it says.

"Solutions such as E-Market will be mainly applicable to packaged insurance products which are predominantly bought by smaller companies."