The insurance industry continues to push forward with efforts to improve the sharing of policy and client information between carriers and distributors, and although progress on this project is already improving efficiency in the industry, there is more work to do in this area, industry players said on Thursday.

At the Canadian Life Insurance EDI Standards Association (CLIEDIS) annual seminar in Toronto, Tana Sabatino, implementation services specialist at CLIEDIS, said the association has seen significant progress in the past year on its eData initiative, which strives to improve the sharing of data between carriers and managing general agencies (MGAs).

“We’re really seeing a lot of progress,” she said.

Specifically, Sabatino noted that nearly all of the insurance carriers have either implemented or have made plans to implement standardized data feeds that provide MGAs with details on all pending insurance policies. The next step is to establish data feeds that provide standardized information on in-force insurance policies, and Sabatino said four carriers have either established or have committed to establishing those feeds.

“It’s been a transformative year for us,” said Alan Bett, assistant vice president of strategic solutions delivery in the Canadian division at Manulife Financial Corp., and co-chairman at CLIEDIS. “We’re seeing momentum that’s not been achieved prior [to now].”

For MGAs, having comprehensive information about clients and policies is necessary in order to meet their growing supervision and compliance requirements, identify new business opportunities and to help advisors manage their client relationships.

MGA executives who spoke at the conference said having access to the pending policy data has improved their efficiency substantially, by saving them from manually entering data each time a policy is sold.

Although they are encouraged by the progress that carriers have made in providing pending policy information, however, MGA executives said they are anxious to get access to in-force policy information, as well, in order to better keep track of all of their existing clients and policies.

“Where we’re lacking right now is in-force feeds,” said Heather Clarke, vice president at I.G. Insurance Services Inc. “We’ve got these huge gaps [in data].”

In particular, as the regulators increasingly look to MGAs to more closely monitor and supervise their advisors’ sales practices, the speakers said that it’s vital for the MGAs to have a comprehensive view of all of the policies their advisors have sold.

“From a compliance perspective, having reliable in-force feeds is nothing short of mission critical,” said Eric Wachtel, chief compliance officer at IDC Worldsource Insurance Network Inc.

Tapping into in-force information is also attractive from a business perspective, as it creates data mining capabilities that can help to identify sales opportunities, and provides advisors with a more comprehensive view of their clients, Clarke said.

“[Advisors] want to have a full picture of what the client has – what investments they have, and what insurance coverage they have,” Clarke said. “Ultimately, our goal is to match that up to our CRM system, so that when the advisor looks up the client, everything is there.”