New technologies and particularly information transfer across the internet are prime drivers of the future shape of the insurance industry. There is a widespread belief that only those companies that harness the potential of these new developments will succeed, and organisations in the re/insurance market are no exception.

In August 1999 The Miller Insurance Group, a leading London market broker of US surplus lines binding authorities, launched a purpose-built, password-protected extranet system for its North American managing general agents (MGAs). Millers first demonstrated the extranet to MGAs at the NAPSLO convention in New York in October 1999, where the system was particularly well received because it allows MGA clients to manage and monitor their binding authority business in a far more efficient manner than previously possible. In the next step of the system's development, this month sees the launch of the first phase of a London market version of this system. Prior to going live, the system was piloted by a number of London market partners and the feedback has been very positive.

Martin Pope, underwriter of Lloyd's syndicate 1511 who has been piloting the system, commented: “It is increasingly important that we can demonstrate control over our binding authority business. Millers' extranet enables improved transparency for our facilities business by allowing access to relevant information in a consistent and timely manner, all at the click of a button. It also enables underwriters to provide bespoke products for coverholders to underwrite with more focus. Going forward, I believe systems of this kind will become vital in the provision of the information that we require from brokers.”

The extranet allows users to view documents and statistics for each of their covers in a number of report formats. Aggregate sum insured reports can be accessed on-line and viewed in a map format to help identify the origin of business and the exposures London market users are accumulating. Additionally, users can view policy wordings and proposal forms, and access an on-line quote submission facility for selected classes of business.

Since its launch, the extranet has been well received by the MGAs. Wayne Forest Sr, President of Forest Insurance Facilities in New Orleans, commented: “The primary benefits are speed and convenience. Before the extranet, when I needed an answer to a question at 4pm my time, I would have to wait until the next morning to get answers. Now I can check my contract status or track a submission whenever I want to, day or night.”

The launch of the first phase of the London market version of the extranet has opened up many areas of the system to the market, giving access to information on demand in a consistent format. First phase features include a special report generation wizard which allows underwriters to print and view premium and claim result reports on-line or to download to several other file formats, as well as aggregate reports with an easy-to-use geographical mapping facility.

Gary Clark, head of Millers' North American unit, said: “There is no doubt that technology will increasingly play a major role in the way we service and interact with our clients and the markets. By using internet-based technology, this easy-to-use and highly efficient system should allow more high-volume, low-value surplus lines business to be placed in the London market. The development of this extranet demonstrates our commitment to technology and we plan to use the experience gained from this initiative to further develop our extranet capabilities across the group.”

Clark believes that technology will definitely enhance the way that insurance transactions are conducted. “The need to duplicate literature is removed and therefore the cost savings and business benefits of this new technology are immense,” he said. “We can now easily provide both our MGAs and the market with information services to facilitate their operations and in doing so, reduce the cost of doing business in London, thus giving a competitive advantage.”

Tap Johnson III, President of TAPCO Underwriters in North Carolina, has dealt with the London market for 17 years and he endorses this message: “To stay competitive and protect our margins we want to automate as many processes as possible. We believe the ability of a London broker to accept and provide data electronically will become indispensable. This is the way of the future and Millers is clearly a leader in this field.”

Due to the market's increasing need for information, Millers plans to introduce more technology-based tools through which its business partners will see even more added value. Future functionality will include triangulation and comparison reports, certificate monitoring reports and document repository services.