Aon believes platform is revolutionary, but some insurers remain sceptical about its value

This time two years ago, there was an excited buzz at Aon’s headquarters in Chicago.

Having hired some of the best brains in business and spent millions of dollars, the mega broker was just three weeks away from launching its long-awaited Global Risk Insight Platform (GRIP).

Aon believed it had revolutionised risk management with GRIP, a real-time electronic platform that would track all of its placements globally, from submission to quotes and binding.

Fantastic for the clients, but even better for insurers, who would pay a fee to access GRIP. Or so they thought.

Where’s the value in it?

Two years on, and a number of insurers, certainly in the London market, have not signed up, including Liberty, Tokio Marine and HDI Gerling.

GRIP is meant to give underwriters a range of unique data, such as determining risk appetite in certain classes or the type of risk management that companies are requesting.

Despite this, the arguments against GRIP are simple enough: why is Aon trying to teach underwriters to do their own job?

Some were suspicious, and one told Insurance Times: “It blanks out the name of the other insurance companies and it tells you what the price of a train company is for property, or the limit they are buying, or you can see the spread of companies … that sort of information.

“But where’s the value in it? We can do all this with our own teams.”

The reputation of GRIP wasn’t helped last year by Deutsche Bank asking for its data to be removed from GRIP.

Will the customer pay for the privilege?

The only reason, some felt, for underwriters to sign up to GRIP, is that they might lose Aon-brokered business.

Aon itself has strongly refuted any suggestions of steering business to GRIP clients, and recent events have proved this to be true.

One source said: “The BBC contract moved from Chubb, which has GRIP, to Travelers, which doesn’t have it.

“If that’s the case, have those GRIP partners wasted a lot of money?”

Finally, some underwriters feel there is a question over disclosure. If an insurer signs up to GRIP, then ultimately the customer might have to pay, through a higher premium.

Aon dismisses this suggestion. A spokesman said: “I can’t see why. If they have to sign up to a particularly expensive electricity supplier, do they have to disclose that information to their clients? It is literally just a commercial service that they chose to buy or not to buy.”

Just another tool of the trade

On the other side of the coin, there are those that believe GRIP is a very helpful risk analysis and data tool – Chubb, QBE and Zurich are convinced.

It’s a bit like online poker players using data mining and data tracker software to assess their risk to get an edge over players without these tools.

As one source said: “The benefits of GRIP are that it gives us detailed management information on joint prospecting opportunities plus information on our performance with customers. If you know how to analyse such data – which we do – then such information will prove very valuable to us.”

With Marsh releasing its own database risk analysis took, MarshConnect and Willis also working on a solution, the momentum is behind the databases.

That raises another difficult question: do insurers sign up to each unique database, one database or none at all?

Ultimately, only time will help answer these questions. If those using GRIP undergo a significant improvement in underwriting and risk selection and management, then rivals will have no choice but to sign up.

If there is no improved performance, then Aon and alike might have wasted a lot of money developing dud technologies.