The journey to an Open Insurance standard – part 3

Managing Collective Contribution

Written by Fouad Husseini, founder at Robosque and The Open Insurance Initiative

The real value of Open Insurance is unlocked through developing great use cases and fostering diverse partnership opportunities. These elements are integral to insurance platform ecosystem thinking. But the most defining aspect of ecosystems is the level of coordination and self-organization that is enabled by standards and compatibility.

For the community of companies supporting the initiative, this resonates with the need to organize and grow organically.

The first part in this series of articles described the backdrop of an industry in the midst of a paradigm shift; from insular predilection to open interfaces and co-innovation. Understanding the Risks and Challenges of Open Insurance was the title of the second part and explored more than thirty emergent primary vectors of risks.

THE SHIFT TO ECOSYSTEM FOCUS

Established online marketplaces and digital platforms are racing to capture more transactional opportunities. This will have a profound effect on traditionally offline services.

Total app spending is an apt indicator of an evolving consumer trend. In the first half of 2020, consumers spent US$50.1 billion, worldwide across the App Store and Google Play. A figure that is up 23.4% from the first half of 2019, while the total for 2020 is set to pass US$100 billion.

The effect of such an evolution is likely to unhinge major players in the insurance industry. We have seen it all before! According to Constellation Research, since 2000, 52 percent of companies in the Fortune 500 have either gone bankrupt, been acquired, or ceased to exist as a result of digital disruption. More strikingly, researchers estimate that three-quarters of today’s S&P 500 will be replaced by 2027.

Incumbent insurance carriers that do not pursue a corresponding strategy will find themselves quickly outgrown by digital-first carriers. This is the challenge of transformation to the platform ecosystem era and APIs will play a major role.

Organizations must respond to intense and disruptive use cases driving exponential growth, characterized by:

  • Real time processing and decision making unhindered by human intervention
  • Sharp personalization and matching needs to products driven by accurate (profitable) prediction systems
  • Data integration and analytics capabilities driving opportunity (use case) discovery
  • Rapid moves within the insurance market and across market boundaries to capture new opportunities

Insurance players would have to boost secure access and respond in near real time to requests for data and functionality to allow third parties to compare prices and product features and switch product or provider.

Insurance-on-demand and, in fact, all subscription-based products will make insurance solutions switchable and insurance carriers substitutable at the press of a button. The economy of substitution will push insurance carriers down the stack. This is the kind of disruption that we are all waiting for and carriers need to rethink their game plans.

Let us not forget, platform businesses scale fast and remaining relevant today is a make or break, and it does not take Google resources to develop an ecosystem! That is why platform ecosystems have become a tool for startups to dislodge long established incumbents. But one thing for sure, without technical modularity, compatibility and standards, no ecosystem would exist.

 

Effects of open insurance
The effects of open insurance

The Open Insurance Initiative wants to reinforce an approach of experimentation, partnership, and smarter regulation to help the sector close the gap between ideas and implementation.

In the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has launched a Call For Input to assess the transformative benefits of extending the Open Banking concept to other financial markets including insurance, pensions and savings.

As a respondent to the Call for Input, the initiative has highlighted that latent but significant move towards Open finance will accelerate the transition towards platforms and ecosystems.

Policymakers in the UK and other regions around the world are exploring ways to improve consumer outcomes through data-driven technologies and services. What is highly interesting is how policymakers in the UK are attempting to connect the financial, utilities and telecom markets through the development of interoperable data sharing initiatives.

Harmonizing sector ‘smart data’ initiatives to ensure consumers have a common experience across different sectors and that cross-sector links can be developed and commonalities exploited. Smart Data Function (SDF) a proposal by The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BIES).

OPIN ON THE GLOBAL STAGE

Fulfilling the promise of a market led initiative, on a global scale, has meant engaging in high level discussions with regulators, insurers, startups, consumer agencies, technology vendors and various international initiatives.

What is Open Insurance?
What is Open Insurance?

 

Open Insurance is not just about the technology. It is more about the social interactions between a group of companies that share or are motivated by at least one common interest, and they work together to achieve common objectives.

Before setting out to build the Open Insurance community, we wanted to assess who our first audience should be. Therefore, we tried to focus our efforts on the most dominant insurers within different local markets, but as it turned out we have built a community of members that is a mix from the largest incumbents to smallest of startups.

And it has been a great journey so far which included initiating hundreds of conversations all over the world. To date almost 100 companies have joined the OPIN community.

Notwithstanding, we need to continue building momentum and drive even more conversations.

As a market driven initiative, we are motivated by the need to do something. These efforts are essential for moving cross-company computing from the limited, small-scale, bespoke efforts of individual companies towards the creation of viable insurance marketplaces.

And obviously, it is also about defining the rules for communicating. These are the protocols, the formats, the security, and access control.

THE DEFINITION OF AN OPEN STANDARD

An insurance standard must define a format or protocol to give guidance to all stakeholders in the development of APIs.

Definitions of what set of features open standards should possess defer. From the perspective of the Open Insurance Initiative and as a preliminary definition of an open insurance standard, it is necessary to clarify and reinforce its constituent parts:

What is meant by Open?

The resulting standard should be publicly available, free to view, implement and extend. There are no associated fees to pay to adopt the common protocol.

What is meant by a Standard?

It is a document that provides requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose.

The Open Insurance standard involves Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) as an enabling technology.

A range of committees ranging from technical to legal will work together to reach consensus on the development and maintenance of the standard. Participation in committees is open to OPIN community members.

Example insurance related standards that are under development or are currently in use

Typically, standards are the work of stakeholders that jointly define, establish, and maintain governance mechanisms. Organizations can develop platform specific standards on their own, as a consortium of industry partners, or as a peer-to-peer platform ecosystem. In contrast to centralized platform ecosystems, a consortium typically implies distribution of control over multiple stakeholders.

Estándar de Intercambio de Información entre Aseguradoras y Corredores (EIAC)

An open data standard initiated by Spanish Association of Insurance and Reinsurance Institutions (UNESPA) and came into effect in 2015. TIREA, a semi-public company, is responsible for developing and evolving the protocol to allow insurance companies and intermediaries to communicate. EIAC covers all lines of business and an extensive range of processes.

Work is under way to evolve the standard from being a federated implementation to a centralized cloud-based hub (see CIMA below).

The Risk Data Open Standard (RDOS)

The first version of RDOS was developed and launched by RMS in January 2020. It is an open standard with Apache 2.0 license aiming to simplify risk management and risk data portability.

RDOS is a superset of existing standards such as EDM, RDM, OED, and CEDE, that modernizes risk data into an extensible, risk model agnostic, vendor agnostic, single  containment with all exposures, losses, contracts, structures and domain data in one package.

BiPRO eV

An alliance of insurance companies and brokers operating in the German market. To date it has made three releases.

Release 1 of the standard was launched in 2007. Since 2019, a new generation of standards "RNext" has been developed.

New technologies such as REST/JSON and microservices are used instead of SOAP/XML as was the case with Release 1 and Release 2.

Centre for Study of Insurance Operations (CSIO)

Canada’s association for P&C insurers and brokers has developed standards and solutions such as eDocs, My Proof of Insurance, eDelivery, and eSignatures. In addition, CSIO operates CSIOnet, a secure, industry-owned platform for the exchange of policy information for the broker channel. The CSIO XML Standard is licensed to CSIO by ACORD. CSIO developed the eDocs Standard independently.

 Association for Cooperative Operations Research and Development (ACORD)

A proprietary data standard mostly used in the USA but has global ambitions. It consists of business processes, product models, development frameworks, information models, data models, and capability models which help organizations to run, develop, modify, and maintain various insurance industry applications.

In April 2020, it released Version 1.0 of its next generation digital standards to support data transfer mechanisms, including microservices and RESTful APIs.

Common Data Standard (CDM)

Microsoft is developing an insurance component as part of its Dynamics 365 Financial Services Accelerator. This component relies on the Common Data Model (CDM) which was created by Microsoft under an MIT License.

CDM provides self-describing data (structurally and semantically), enabling applications to easily read and understand the data.

Standard Vendor Dominant market Status License Remarks
EIAC TIREA Spain Active Open Market Initiative
RDOS Risk Management Solutions USA Active Open Risk and exposure data
Common Data Standard Microsoft USA Work in progress Open A model co-developed with Adobe and SAP
BiPRO BiPRO eV Germany Active Proprietary REST APIs
ACORD Association for Cooperative Operations Research and Development USA Active Proprietary REST APIs
CSIO Centre for Study of Insurance Operations Canada Active Proprietary Mostly based on ACORD’s
CIMA TIREA/ebroker Spain Work in progress Open Market Initiative
Polaris Polaris U.K. UK Active Proprietary Subscription library

Insurance related standards

As mentioned earlier, in insurance there are several centralized platforms formed either by individual corporations or through joint private-semi governmental entities. Insurance related standards

Examples include, IVANS a project by Applied Systems which reputedly connects more than 32,000 insurance companies and intermediaries through its US based platform.

CIMA (Connectivity and Innovation for Insurance Mediation) is a new initiative managed by TIREA, scheduled for full functional release in January 2021. Its members include DECOSE, General Council of Associations of Insurance Mediators, AUNNA, FECOR and a group of prominent insurers and broking companies. CIMA will use the EIAC standard mentioned earlier and the MEDAS application developed by ebroker to power a centralized cloud infrastructure. They hope to improve speed of integration and information exchange between insurers and brokers.

WHAT STEPS ARE NEEDED TO BRING ABOUT CHANGE?

The insurance market is not one accustomed to developing joint initiatives and standards. Therefore, it becomes important to understand the mechanics and the larger role human behavior plays. Why would people or even business join a standard making effort?

The objective of developing a market standard that is international in nature, requiring agreement on technology and specifications is not an easy prospect. Being part of a community involves leveraging an opportunity and a platform to connect.

Communities, provide a sounding board, enable learning together, empower us to effect change, to overcome challenges and they help projects thrive if they are successful.

It is essential that we drive awareness, buzz, and action through engagement. The objectives are made clear and specific for people to understand and get behind the initiative. The participation of every individual is valuable in sustaining the momentum.

Different people have different motivations. By its nature, this is a business project and people may be motivated by the commercial gains of receiving access to data and this by itself is not a bad thing but is rather expected.

Beyond business gains, taking part in the initiative is also a huge learning exercise. We will be pioneering a new dimension in market cooperation and one that is driven by technology. It can allow for exchanges of experience and knowledge and provides opportunities for co-innovation between leaders and entrepreneurs.

Who we associate with could have a huge impact on our journey through life. People want to build relationships; they like to spotlight themselves and grow through the power of association. Business is no different.

The efforts of community members will lead to solving technical and regulatory issues necessary for developing a common and agreed standard. These will include: 

  • open APIs architecture
  • security protocols
  • authentication and identity management
  • consent management
  • service level agreements for performance
  • operating principles, processes and practice

We should not forget that elements of the Open Banking standard (the UK’s mandated standard) can be adopted in whole or modified to enable Open Insurance, including:

  • Consent, authentication, and authorization management
  • Security and safety procedures and frameworks
  • User experience model

For Open Insurance to deliver on its promises, the range of data shared, its quality and timeliness are critical elements.

Implementing Open Insurance APIs will necessitate that the majority of insurers (emphasis is on the number of entities involved) participate in order to provide a level playing field and equal access.

The insurance sector has insurance carriers of different capabilities with varying digital capacities, so it is important that open insurance APIs are introduced gradually to allow for one speed evolution for all participating insurers.

Open Insurance may take significant time to develop and consideration could be given to evolve in phases:

  • Open insurance could develop per line of business. For example, a good start may be to develop open insurance APIs for motor insurance lines.
  • Phase 2, could involve additional lines of business such as protection and saving products.

THE MEASURABLE EFFECTS OF THE INITIATIVE

OPIN is the first initiative to define the overarching requirements of an open insurance standard and to also chart its path in an open and community driven approach.

On a personal level, for innovators and thought leaders, the prospect of congregating with peers to explore, solve, co-create and implement new ideas, knowledge and insights developed through doing is one that every budding InsurTech expert should grab.

Open Insurance reinforces modularity and compatibility resulting in interoperability being improved across the commercial spectrum. OPIN will play an active role in coordinating the definition of data types and functionality across different regulated markets, coordinate implementation timeframes to integrate with each market and support the formation of alliances across different non-regulated markets or sectors.

The standard and infrastructure developed by The Open Insurance Initiative could be leveraged to support cross-sector smart data initiatives taking advantage of:

  • Synergies in dataset definitions and structures such as KYC information and currency descriptions
  • API architectural design, resource formats, versioning and documentation
  • Secure consent, authentication, authorization processes and encryption
  • Open licensing formats
  • Control, access and security processes
  • Fraud detection and monitoring mechanisms
  • Central developer resources in the form of a developer hub and a sandbox environment
  • Governance models
  • Key indicators for availability and performance

To achieve our aim of an effective and interoperable ecosystem, we want to see open insurance APIs being adopted at an international level. The initiative will work with national regulators to encourage cross-country-cross-platform communication standards.

Finally

Few doubt the huge role data will play in redefining the boundaries of the insurance market. Ingesting, normalizing, and analyzing orthogonal data flowing in from different sectors will provide a more comprehensive and detailed view of the customer. The opportunities for improving the customer experience will be a source of inspiration as well as risk.

New forms of competition will appear, stakeholders will coordinate on issues that they cannot solve by themselves, information asymmetry will be reduced, competing platforms will co-exist on the same platform, and differentiation is only achievable through providing better value. This is disruption.

API standards and protocols will be at the heart of what will become a robust and vibrant insurance ecosystem. What starts in the insurance market could lead to innovation in other markets.

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