Higher business volume? Lower costs? Mark Birrel, CEO of BGIL, describes an online world of mouth-watering opportunity....

Q What does the internet mean for the redistribution of insurance products?
You really have to divide up the internet between the B2B and B2C communities.

In the B2C arena the internet offers the ability to provide live customers the opportunity to gain access to 'panel' websites, which enable them to obtain a variety of quotes.

For these B2C portals to work they must be perceived to be offering a full service, encompassing premium payments and not simply quoting systems.

In the B2B arena, underwriters and brokers have the ability to increase their distribution and reduce their acquisition costs.

Furthermore, for brokers there is no doubt that the internet provides a new business channel to improve their margins.

Q What do you think the consequences of the internet will be for insurance brokers and intermediaries?
The internet provides both brokers and intermediaries with the opportunity to re-evaluate their function within the insurance community.

By using insurers' sites they have the opportunity to take the costs of transactions and claims processing away from their balance sheets, and focus on the production and liaison with customers, thereby creating higher profit margins.

The B2B internet community needs brokers, and that should get brokers excited about the new opportunities rather than finding them a source of concern.

Q Who do you perceive as rivals?
With a business model of an ecommerce provider offering sales, technology, marketing and management services, we are not aware of many companies who are able to offer the total ecommerce package, from concept through to the finished marketed product. However, in each of the mentioned areas, our 'competitors' range from specialist IT companies through to advertising and marketing agencies.

Q What next for BGIL? How much more room for growth is there in the insurance market? Are you looking into new markets?
We plan to have built up to 20 insurance focused websites by the end of this year We also have B2B and B2C initiatives currently in progress outside of the financial services arena. The interactive technology, which we have developed for our current clients, is equally applicable to non-insurance entities and, as such, we are looking to expand our customer base beyond our core market of insurance.

Q Is there any chance of BGIL being a completely separate entity to Benfield Greig?
BGIL's relationship with BG is by definition a joint venture. Formed some 20 months ago, we have been widely perceived as a subsidiary or a division of BG, but this isn't the case. BGIL's management team has complete strategic development and management autonomy.

We are some four weeks away from an international rebranding campaign, and will be positioning ourselves as a new media agency with a new identity and brand values

Although the insurance industry will remain our core market, we will be actively seeking opportunities outside this sector and therefore we require an image that reflects our new business.

Q How many insurers are using your system?
In total we have 14 insurers who are currently underwriting the live products, and we are actively 'in talks' with a number of insurance companies around the world; this number is set to dramatically increase in the near future.

Q Do you have any broker clients?
The majority of our customers, the users of our sites, are brokers. Out of our eight sites, which are currently live, all are available to brokers, so actively we have many brokers using our systems from all around the world.