E-trading is one of the most exciting new business platforms available to brokers. There is no doubt that electronic systems are changing the shape of the industry and the market has become no place for technophobes. The exclusive Insurance Times Broker Service Survey reveals everything you need to know about the insurance sector’s next big thing

Q. Where is e-trading taking place?

A. Insurers’ websites appear to be where the lion’s share of e-trading occurs. These websites are very well used. In fact, slightly more than 90% of respondents to the Broker Service Survey technology questions indicated that they use insurers’ websites.

Brokers from small firms (GWP under £2.5m) are the heaviest users, whereas those from very large brokerages (GWP above £75m) are the least likely to use them (25% of very large broker respondents to the survey indicated that they never used insurers’ websites).

This makes sense as it is easier to handle less complicated risks on an e-trading platform. In addition, very large brokers are more likely to have their own bespoke systems through which insurers’ websites can be accessed directly.

E-trading is occurring within broker networks too but this is impacting a far smaller proportion of the market; only around 45% of the Broker Service Survey respondents indicated that they were members of a network or alliance and these were more likely to be small or mid-sized brokerages.

And e-trading is also being carried out between brokers and their clients. A recent Insurance Times sentiment survey about SME business found that 5% of respondents were offering their clients this option.

Q. What about imarket?

A. Imarket offers an alternative way to engage in e-trading with a group of major insurers other than by accessing them directly through their websites. And although this multi-insurer-owned e-trading portal is not used by all of the broker market, it still appears to be well used by its devotees.

The Broker Service Survey provided a snapshot of imarket usage, indicating that just over half of the respondents used the service. Other findings revealed:

  • Brokers from mid-sized and large brokerages (GWP between £10m and £75m) are most likely to use the service.
  • Brokers from very large firms are the lowest users.
  • Imarket is used more for commercial lines than personal lines.
  • Very large brokerages are more likely to use imarket for personal lines than commercial lines.

Q. How frequently are e-trading options used?

A. The answer seems to depend on brokerage size and IT investments.

Data from the Broker Service Survey showed that 50% of brokers who reported that they had their own bespoke systems used these for all or most transactions. This is not surprising as companies that invest in such systems would invariably seek to make use of the systems an integral part of workflow.

More surprising, perhaps, was the finding that a third of respondent brokers reported using insurers’ websites for all or most transactions.

However, a closer look at this data revealed that it was brokers from small and medium-sized brokerages who were more likely to be the most frequent users.

Half of small brokers reported using these websites for all or most transactions, whereas three-quarters of very large brokers only used them for some or occasional transactions. This could be an indication that brokers see a real value in e-trading, but that it is the small brokers that have the flexibility to adapt their internal processes more easily to take advantage of this platform.

Q. Should insurers be doing more to promote e-trading?

A. There are probably many in the industry, especially among small brokers, who would argue that insurers are already doing too much by setting up websites that enable their potential clients to trade directly with the insurer. This is especially true for personal lines and increasingly so for less complex commercial risks.

But as responses to the Broker Service Survey show, many small brokers have been embracing e-trading on behalf of their clients. And small broker feedback in the survey indicated that they want more help from insurers in this regard.

Here are a few of the suggestions that were made by brokers:

  • “Options to refer quotes to underwriters electronically or to speak to someone live using online chat.”
  • “Improve websites to allow 24-hour access.”
  • “Make it easier for [brokers] to transact adjustments online.”

Some in the industry may be slow to embrace e-trading but brokers that recognise its advantages remain one step ahead of their rivals.

It’s time to become tech-savvy.