WISe (worldwide insurance - e-commerce) came into being on 7 June 1999 with the convergence of three existing (re)insurance networks, LIMNET, RINET and WIN. Kevin Ashby says it is set to bring about a significant reduction in international barriers to electronic trading.

With the launch of WISe, leading participants in the world reinsurance and insurance market have taken a major step forward to removing uncertainty surrounding network integration, eliminating duplication of effort and cost and removing international barriers to electronic trading.

Rob White-Cooper, chairman of the new organisation, says: “The mission of WISe is to create an open, collaborative platform for worldwide e-commerce trading and, thereby, enable all market participants to drive down unnecessary administration costs and improve client service.”

WISe is not a physical network but the first ever global organisation set up to promote collaboration between all market participants and third party suppliers to facilitate e-commerce on a worldwide basis. It is fundamentally different in essence and scope from what has gone before. In particular, we believe WISe is much more likely to develop the critical mass of support that is necessary to deliver agreed and practical solutions for the following reasons:
• it is open to all market participants including insurers, reinsurers, brokers and other insurance intermediaries and captive insurance companies;
• it embraces all forms of business-to-business commercial insurance and reinsurance and all aspects of the insurance process including front and back-office procedures;
• it has the support of the world's largest insurers, brokers and reinsurers by virtue of bringing together the existing members of LIMNET, RINET and WIN.

WISe is focused on delivering benefits to the industry and this is reflected in the fact that the organisation is a non-profit co-operative operating globally out of Brussels, London and Chicago. Overseeing and managing the new organisation will be an advisory council of 30 industry representatives, an executive board, comprising 16 members with equal representation from brokers and underwriters, and an operations council made up of e-commerce managers of the executive board companies.

We will be judged on what we deliver, and to this end the management team is already working on a series of new initiatives. The former activities of LIMNET, RINET and WIN, are now grouped under two main programmes: WISe trusted trading, and WISe data exchange. We intend to work extensively with third-party suppliers to bring these programmes and other activities to fruition.

Trusted trading
WISe trusted trading focuses on providing a secure and legally regulated framework within which companies can trade electronically, safe in the knowledge that information cannot be seen by those unauthorised to view it, that procedures are in place to avoid disagreement over whether information was actually sent or received and that individuals transmitting information are who they say they are.

It recognises that companies will wish to vary what they do in terms of the content, presentation, negotiation and binding of electronic risks, and it will not be publishing solutions in these areas. The value of trusted trading lies in its provision of a common platform including a common legal/interchange framework, security procedures, a business directory with information on member companies and their trading interests and how to communicate with them electronically, and inter-operable standards to enable participants to choose whatever network distributor they desire.

Data exchange
The primary aim of WISe data exchange is to facilitate the exchange of structured administrative transactions. It is universally agreed that the use of electronic data interchange (EDI) for these types of transaction offers significant benefits. However, the complexity of the technology traditionally used for EDI, the lack of critical mass at the global level in terms of EDI-enabled trading partners, and the relatively high investment required in areas which are often a lower priority, have historically combined to curtail the widespread use of EDI.

One of the key elements of data exchange, therefore, will be the new business centre, a central translation and distribution capability which removes the need for individual members to programme legacy applications to produce and process EDI messages. It is expected that the business centre, elements of which will be available in September 1999, will significantly reduce the financial barriers to entry and accelerate take-up of EDI for administrative transactions.

Under the data exchange programme, WISe will also continue to offer an EDI implementation module, including message translation, mapping of codes and data fields, etc, and an EDI software module based on the various “black box” platforms.

Kevin Ashby is chief executive of WISe and is based in London. Contact in London: Susan Savage; tel: +44 (0) 171 422 8212; fax: +44 (0) 171 422 8222; e-mail: susan.savage@wise-insurance.com. In Brussels: Margaret Haffenden; tel: +32 2 679 6207; fax: +32 2 673 8015; e-mail: margaret.haffenden@wise-insurance.com.