Net competition
On reflection there isn't much of a difference between the systems sold by the various broker system software houses. They support the same basic processes, provide quotations for motor, household and a handful of other schemes, and they exchange data with insurance companies with varying degrees of completeness (some say success!).

So where is the competitive advantageNULL

On its own, packaged software does not offer you any advantage over the company down the street with the same type of software. The whole idea of packaged software is the software house can turn the handle and out comes another one, complete with CD and manuals!

The internet is showing how important technology has become to maintain an advantage over the competition.

Meeting the precise needs of specific customer groups means developing systems which are tailored to those needs. Packaged products by their nature are constrained by the vision of the supplier, and their progress limits the speed of your innovation.

There is no doubt in my mind that the insurance intermediary market is being held back by the systems houses.

Hit-and-miss affair
These providers are having to take software and business models which have evolved over many years and try and relate them to the internet. The consequence has been a hit-and-miss affair, mostly with screens used by staff spruced up and presented on the internet.

What is more, some of these live demonstrations will inevitably lead to competition between some systems houses and their customers!

Success on the internet is unlikely to come from taking an insurance system and placing it on the web as it comes out of the box. Smart intermediaries will want to plug in different services and products to their web sites, change workflows and integrate their client and policy databases into other systems. They will be constantly looking for new ways to turn the attention of on-line users into sources of revenue.

Insurance as a means to an end may become the preserve of the ultra-specialist, able to charge high premium and commissions for high risks. For the average internet intermediary it is likely to decline in importance as new opportunities to generate revenue present themselves, and a new generation of technology-literate insurance professionals progress through the ranks.

Another truth that the internet has reinforced is those companies who get there first will be a step ahead of their competition – with the rewards to match.

So if you want to compete seriously in an on-line market now is a good time to start thinking. Ask yourself what you want from the internet, how clients can do business with you more easily and where the industry is going with it.

Then use that to develop a sound strategy to start tapping into the internet economy.

So don't be constrained by the technology you are using today – look outside of insurance for new revenue opportunities and start now.