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Causing a stir

Ian McKenna reviews the latest quotation portal offering from the Exchange

15 December 2007

When it comes to comparative life insurance quotations, one portal – the Exchange – dominates the market.

It now delivers some 12 million quotations per month, covering 50 insurers for over 300 products and overall claims to account for some 75 per cent of the life quotation market.

Rather scarily, it has actually delivered over one billion quotations since the company was set up in 1992.

If it can replicate its success in life and pensions, its entry into the general insurance (GI) portal market could represent a watershed event in the sales of such products, giving advisers the mechanisms with which to grab back much of the market share lost to direct writers over the last few decades.

Last week, I was given advanced access to this new service, which goes into pilot with a number of Tenet members this month. It builds on the successful ExWeb broker package used by so many mortgage advisers for their life protection comparisons. If all goes well, it should be available to a wider market early in 2008.

Initial service

The initial service will offer comparative quotations for buildings, contents and accident, sickness and unemployment (ASU) products from a range of providers including Axa, Legal & General, Norwich Union, Towergate and Zurich for household cover, and GI Secure, MMS, Cardif Pinnacle and D&D Homecare for ASU. I understand several other insurers are in advanced discussions to join the platform. A buy-to-let module will be added in the near future

It is a fully independent general insurance quote platform. Advisers are free to choose which providers they want to deal with. The firm establishes its own agencies and negotiates its own commission rates, unlike other GI quote portals which tend to define which insurers an adviser will deal with, impose the commission rates and require the adviser to place the business via the portal's agencies rather than direct.

This will enable advisers to provide advice covering a wide range of insurers rather than tending to put most of their business with the provider they know best. Nor does the service offer a single contract with multiple underwriters; it is a genuine multi-insurer service.

This does mean that the question set is lengthier, but is still far easier than entering all the details into multiple insurers' systems to do multiple quotes.

CMS interaction

The process is designed to interact with client management systems (CMS) to re-use data already captured by the adviser and Exchange has already built integration with Crystal software and not surprisingly, the Mortgage Edition of 1st Software's Adviser Evolution.

From the GI menu within Exweb, the adviser has four initial options. quick quote, full quote household, ASU and retrieve quotes. The normal entry point would be quick quote. This brings up a series of questions which, if the customer cannot answer yes to, the case is not suitable to be processed via the system and will need a more manual approach to quotations.

At this point the adviser enters the property and client details. Where the adviser is using one of the integrated CMS these can be pre populated. Then the sums assured for buildings and/or contents are added and an initial comparative quote is generated.

From this point, the user has the option to requote, i.e. change the primary details or proceed to a full quote. On proceeding to the full quote, all the information previously entered is carried forward to the new quote and the process is then refined to take into account risk information, for example, locks, alarms and smoke detectors for the subject property.

The user then decides if they wish to include optional additional covers such as accidental damage, individual item limits and any specific valuables to be included for all risks. Having added the client's personal details, a further comparative quotation is generated showing the risk rated premium. At this point individual features and benefits can be generated and the client can proceed.

To proceed, a policy summary is created together with a simple demands and suitability letter, and there is the option to produce a single illustration for the plan. Having clicked the ‘buy' button the adviser enters details of the client's bank account and opts to ‘buy now' or "buy later'. The latter option saves all the information needed so that when cover is required, it can go on risk.

Causing a shake up

This service offers the sort of detailed GI comparison service that has previously only been available to specialist GI brokers who are responsible for the whole client servicing recycle renewals, claims, etc. This service is designed to allow advisers to set up the contract, and subsequently have the provider deal direct while the adviser still benefits from the renewal commission.

The system has the capacity to cause a real shake up in the personal lines market in 2008. Certainly it will be far easier for advisers using this system to give clients detailed comparative quotations from a wide range of insurers, both when they set up a mortgage and a

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