I write in response to your article on imarket (Features, 10 January).

 imarket is a paradox. It is a superb idea: end-to-end connectivity, standardised technology, and market co-operation. And yet it has not filled its potential.

The progressive concept of major UK insurers pooling funds with a common goal has been let down by, among other things, what appears to users as a failure to agree commonality on data capture.

The UK market should make more effort to conform to the international Acord standards. Acord has been involved with the London market since 2001, but I believe the principles of standardising platforms for data exchange should apply nationwide.

We have to look at the US model and ask why our insurers and software houses have not achieved more earlier. The use by American brokers and insurers of initiatives, such as Ivans, must give us hope for what is achievable.

I do not believe that the technology is limiting what can be achieved. The systems behind imarket are not, to mix a metaphor, rocket science. This whole thing is do-able.

 How much then do we, the UK market, want imarket? Brokers want it a lot but do not have the resources, human or financial, to make it happen. The Towergate purchase of OpenGI might be  questioned from a number of aspects, but it is a logical step as far as technology is concerned.

Software houses want imarket to work both for market share and income stream, and work hard to convert dreams into reality. As for insurers, one has to question the level of commitment, in the face of the widespread pushing of extranets, which suit insurers but force brokers to re-key.

Of course insurers will rightly respond that they remain committed to multiple channels for distribution and that is fair comment.

Nevertheless there is hope. imarket has not failed. As Martin McLachlan, Polaris managing director responsible for imarket, points out, EDI took 10 years to get going, and who could live without it now?

Perhaps our expectations have been too high for commercial e-trading, but then some of us want the world and we want it now; is that so bad?


Andrew Carrick

Broker system administrator

The Insurance Partnership Services