In today's world, we all want things immediately. We are connected through e-mail, Blackberries and cell phones. The days of waiting days or weeks or even months for answers are gone. This is particularly true in our insurance world where rapid responses are mandatory.
Whether it is an insurance quote, claim inquiry, submission of business or servicing of business, if you can't provide that immediate response, someone else will. Working to enable the ease of doing and placing business for the distribution channels is where ACORD standards play a pivotal role.
In 2003, Celent Communications (Boston) wrote in their Technology & the Evolution of Insurance Distribution study that, "regardless of product mix and the combination of channels used, carriers clearly face a mandate to build systems that provide better functionality, more automation and increased ease of use for ever more selective customers and channel partners."
To achieve these business efficiencies, Celent cited the need for data standards as part of the overall equation. And this is where ACORD has been instrumental in facilitating communications across the distribution chain.
When ACORD began, one of its primary focuses was on supporting ease of and placing of business through distribution channels using standardized forms. Agents and distributors could then use a single form that would be accepted by a majority of the industry, eliminating the volumes of carrier-specific ones. It eliminated individual idiosyncrasies and the need to learn multiple forms, which provided the first step in improving the processing speed.
ACORD's AL3 electronic standard was the next revolution to come along. It moved the industry from paper to file transfers. By eliminating copying, faxing and mail, the industry could communicate more efficiently at the press of a button.
Today, we are in a real-time world and XML enables this environment. Through the use of ACORD XML for Life and Annuities, P&C/Surety, and Reinsurance, information flows instantaneously over the Web. That same Celent study went on to add that "ACORD XML seems to strike the right balance between richness of data and ease of implementation."
We've come a long way from sending paper copies by ship or train to faxes to the instant gratification of the Internet.
ACORD's Life & Annuity standard has focused on building and implementing standards to facilitate real-time processing across the distribution channel. We have built into the robust data model messages for:
- Contact/Agency Management Systems
- Product Profiles
- New Business Submissions
- Licensing and Appointment
- Pending Case Status
The same is true on the P&C/Surety side where we have moved from the batch processed AL3 to real-time XML messages. This includes:
- Agency Management Systems
And what about those forms that started it all? They are still being used, but are now electronic and fillable. Now, agents/distributors can download a fillable form from the ACORD Advantage Web site (www.acordadvantage.org), fill it out and then fax, print, save or e-mail the completed form. We are now working to integrate the fillable forms with ACORD's XML standards to further streamline communication for all agents/distributors.
Today, our industry relies on immediate results in order to survive. By implementing the ACORD standards used by the leaders in the industry, the pipelines between agents/distributors and carriers are wide open and the data is flowing. The days of waiting months for responses has been reduced to mere minutes. And the results? You now have the ability to do more business, more easily, which improves your bottom line. The benefits the industry has seen, and can achieve in the future, are described in ACORD President & CEO Gregory A. Maciag's book The Information Revolution, available through ACORD at www.acord.org.