By Stefan Dubowski
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Should SEMCI stay or go? | Canadian Insurance

Should SEMCI stay or go?

It's been nearly 20 years since the concept of single entry, multiple company interface (SEMCI) came to be in the insurance industry. Today, while some say we're closer than we've ever been to achieving it, others say it's time to let go of the SEMCI dream.

“I don’t think SEMCI will ever really happen,” says Katherine Evans, VP and CFO, York Fire & Casualty Insurance Co. “As a carrier, why would I agree to a single interface?”

Carriers, brokers, and associated industry observers have been at odds over SEMCI for a while. The idea of a simple, single entry place for all of the inquiries and changes a broker service representative faces in a day seemed just right for brokers, who have grown increasingly concerned about the impact technology has on their workflow efficiency. But as Evans points out, a single interface could hurt carriers, taking the advanced features built into their best broker portals and reducing them “to the lowest common denominator” in terms of functionality and system access speeds.

And yet for every SEMCI naysayer we find a proponent. “We’re achieving it today,” says Wendy Watson, VP operations at The Precept Group Inc. and co-chair of the Organization of Real-Time Brokers in Transition (ORBiT). “We just need to achieve it further across the board. Brovada allows SEMCI to happen. WARP allows SEMCI. It’s in every real-time transaction.”

Advocating for a broker-workflow overhaul, ORBiT has placed SEMCI and its companion, real-time transactions, at the centre of its effort to give brokers a stronger voice in the increasingly competitive market.

On the surface, ORBiT’s work seems similar to the prep and rollout that accompanied the Centre for the Study of Insurance Operations’ (CSIO) Portal, launched in 2000 as an Internet window allowing brokers and carriers to communicate. It was shuttered in 2006 as new advanced broker management systems came onto the market.

It would be a mistake to think that ORBiT is trying to re-create the CSIO Portal, however. “The CSIO portal was a single solution,” Watson says, explaining that ORBiT aims to leverage the wide range of BMSs available. “ORBiT doesn’t support a single solution. Brokers exist to offer choice to consumers. We believe brokers should have a choice in how they do business.”

Steve Kaukinen, president of the CSIO, figures SEMCI has a future—it has to. “If our industry can’t eliminate double, triple or whatever entry for our brokers, we are not going to effectively service our customers and compete against direct writers who do not face the same issues,” he says. “Through the acceptance and use of CSIO XML standards amongst our members, SEMCI is definitely achievable.”

© Copyright 2010 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the February 2010 edition of Canadian Insurance magazine.