Firms increasingly adopting electronic data feeds to track insurance policies

Insurance agents and their firms need access to more data from insurance carriers in order to properly serve clients and meet their compliance responsibilities, industry executives said on Thursday at the Canadian Life Insurance EDI Standards (CLIEDIS) annual seminar.

At the conference in Toronto, life insurance carriers, distributors and technology providers highlighted the progress made and the challenges that remain in the quest to create standardized data feeds pertaining to insurance applications and in-force policies.

Managing general agencies (MGAs) and other distribution firms said they are receiving the full scope of data they need from only a handful of carriers with which they contract. Although they said they are encouraged by the progress being made, they suggested that getting more data is vital.

“There is definitely room to improve,” said Phil Booth, vice president and general manager at PPI Solutions.

Booth said advisors need access to accurate and comprehensive information about clients and their policies in order to serve them properly. “An advisor is only going to be as effective as the information they have on hand,” he said.

The more up-to-date information advisors have about clients, the better ongoing advice they can provide, Booth said. “[It allows] advisors to be able to deliver substantially better service and better advice to their clients, because they’ll have a more complete picture.”

Access to data and information is also necessary in order for MGAs to keep up with their compliance responsibilities, speakers at the conference said. In some cases, distribution firms are not receiving copies of insurance applications that their advisors are submitting to carriers. That raises a compliance concern, said Heather Clarke, vice president of insurance services at Investors Group.

“We need a copy of the application because we have a requirement to supervise our business,” Clarke said.

Earleen Moulton, vice president of compliance at BridgeForce Financial Group, agreed that it’s important for carriers to keep MGAs in the loop on any business happening between their advisors and carriers.

“The expectation of the MGA is to know the advisor,” she said. “If they’re dealing directly with the carrier, how do we, as an MGA, get information to ensure that we know that we have that complete and up-to-date and relevant picture of that advisor, to be certain that we’re comfortable that the advisor is qualified and suitable to be offering that service and advice to the consumer?”

Facilitating access to this kind of comprehensive information requires collaboration between parties at all levels of the insurance industry: advisors, MGAs, carriers and technology providers, Booth said.

“There’s a great partnership opportunity here,” he said.

CLIEDIS is working with carriers and distributors to get standardized data feeds in place across the industry. “Getting this information is what needs to happen,” said Tana Sabatino, implementation services specialist at CLIEDIS.

However, she said it is a significant and challenging endeavor, and it will not happen overnight. “This is not easy work,” Sabatino said. “These things take time. There are resources involved, there are a lot of things that need to happen for successful implementation.”

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