In an indication that the Single Entry Multiple Carrier Interface (SEMCI) concept at long last may be reaching critical mass, Warwick, R.I.-based MetLife Auto & Home (about $3 billion in annual premium) recently launched an initiative to deliver SEMCI functionality to its independent agents. Branded PowerLink, the initiative is composed of partnerships with comparative rating and management system vendors and solutions -- including AMS (Bothell, Wash.) SETWrite and Webcetera's (Flower Mound, Texas) EZLynx -- that allow agents to access rating information from multiple carriers without reentering data.
PowerLink also encompasses organizational shifts within MetLife Auto & Home, a wholly owned subsidiary of MetLife, that will cement SEMCI as a companywide priority, according to Scott Kuczmarski, the carrier's VP of agency distribution. "We now have a dedicated unit of business and IT professionals that do nothing but focus on providing SEMCI solutions and linkups for our agents," he reports.
MetLife Auto & Home operates a multichannel distribution system that includes direct-to-consumer and captive agent business as well as independent agents. But of the company's roughly $3 billion in annual premium, $1.2 billion is derived from independent agents, Kuczmarski relates. He stresses that SEMCI improves ease of doing business with the carrier, a key (along with product differentiation, pricing and agent compensation) to building profitable relationships with independent agents. "In a lot of ways, the most important thing is that we have to be easy to do business with," Kuczmarski observes. SEMCI is "the easiest way for agents to interface with us, and it makes their agency more efficient."
"One of the values that independent agents provide is crossing between carriers as they sell product," adds Craig Weber, a senior analyst within Boston-based Celent's insurance practice. "If carriers make it hard to do that, there's virtually no way they'll generate business from that distribution channel." While agents aren't "married" to SEMCI, Weber adds, the concept is a good way to deliver the quality service and convenience agents always have demanded (see related chart).
As a result, SEMCI is gaining industrywide traction, MetLife Auto & Home's Kuczmarski contends. While the concept has been around for 25 years, "It's in the last five years or less when technology has caught up to the vision, with the proliferation of XML and Web services technology," he says.
XML Fueling SEMCI Trend
Celent's Weber explains that XML has helped bridge the gaps between carriers that historically hindered SEMCI. "It's standardizing data and providing a standardized way to handle data and to interact with carriers systems," he comments. "That absolutely will fuel the SEMCI trend."
While the current MetLife Auto & Home project focuses primarily on new business processing, quoting and application submission, the carrier's Kuczmarski suggests that future projects could involve developing SEMCI capabilities for policy service. "The industry is well on its way to having all the major management systems and comparative rating vendors up and running for real-time quoting," Kuczmarski asserts. "From an agency efficiency standpoint, you could argue that the service piece is more important than new business."