As the global force for change gathers speed, Alex Letts urges the industry to accept the financial burden of keeping pace

Sarbanes-Oxley, Eliot Spitzer in the US; John Tiner at the FSA; Nick Prettejohn at Lloyd's; Dane Douetil at the Market Reform Group - leading cedants and other powerful influencers - have created an irresistible force for change over the next 18 months.

But who will pay for using the pieces of the new infrastructure that lie out in the public domain? Every company knows there is a price to pay internally to update their processes and systems to meet the new standards. It is like getting your first car and having to add all its associated expenses to your cost base. But who is going to pay for using the roads, the bridges and the fuel stations and how much will they cost?

Like all public service construction projects, there appears to be a mix of public funds raised through taxation (eg Lloyd's Kinnect), and private enterprise ventures. But they expect such investment to be repaid, handsomely, during the future. Adding another line of cost for using external infrastructure is going to further inflate those spiraling IT budgets.

Companies which understand the long-term requirement and pain of rolling out valid infrastructure are taking the costs on the chin. Others though are less willing. But the regulatory environment dictates that the fledgling infrastructure has to be taken to the heart of their business as well. So they too have to pay. They should seek to understand how to make the infrastructure deliver value for the cost. Those that resist through short-term value objections will be the losers. They might also look in the mirror, fully aware that the cost is minute compared to the long-term benefits in efficiency, contract certainty and transparency. Their competitors have swallowed hard, and have begun to play and pay with commitment. These companies see a competitive landscape full of change where new leaders emerge during a transition in which the old model and the old guard are swept into the industry archives.

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