CLIEDIS, an organization that advocates for the adoption of common IT standards in the life insurance industry, is hard-pressed to convince insurers to adopt its Book of business feed, executive director Darlys Corbitt told The Insurance and Investment Journal.
The Book of business feed was previously called Inforce. Today, only four insurers have adopted one of the two feeds: Canada Life subscribes to Inforce, while Manulife, ivari and iA Financial Group have chosen Book of business. Corbitt did not explain this reluctance, but she stresses that the adoption of CITS standards, namely all digital data feeds, is crucial for effectively managing portfolios in force. “We have to make sure that suppliers get a return on their investment when their distributors adopt [the feed], to move the project ahead.”
She adds that some distributors have trouble managing all the information that reaches them; this hinders universal adoption of the CITS standards. “As the number of available feeds rises, distributors find it harder to use data optimally. They may have to modify internal processes and support their employees to fully benefit from the information sent electronically,” Corbitt adds.
Mario Provencher, Vice-President Operations at Financial Horizons Group and CLIEDIS board member, comments on Corbitt’s views. He points out that several adjustments have been made to adapt to the CITS standards, particularly because the feeds are not harmonized among the 23 insurers with which Horizons does business.
“When we receive electronic information, each insurer sends it in a different format. For example, when agents in new business have doubts about information received, they have to check it on the insurer’s website or call them. With a feed that presents all the information clearly, they won’t need to do this. The adoption of CITS standards is important so that all distributors have the same understanding of the feed and can transmit the right information to advisors. It takes time and trust to reach harmonization,” Provencher said in an interview
He adds that the distributor’s whole staff must understand the system and work to identify errors and share them with CLIEDIS. This requires an investment to ensure that IT systems are compatible with data feed transmissions.
Provencher drew a parallel between the efforts made in mutual funds. He explains that distributors’ employees are assigned to detect errors during the sending and receiving of information via the Fundserv platform, which processes mutual fund transactions. Errors are then sent to the mutual fund manufacturer concerned.
Despite a few setbacks, CLIEDIS has made progress in the past three years. From six suppliers who adopted feeds in 2014, the number has soared to 15 in 2017. At first, only the Pending case status standard, which complied proposals, was available. Today, the Application notification and Book of business feeds are also available to insurers. CLIEDIS aims to offer 30 feeds by year-end. At press time it had 26.
Corbitt thinks that getting all suppliers to adopt CITS standards will take a few more years. “All suppliers, distributors and software companies need to understand the advantages of adopting standardized feeds, and that they must make investments and allot resources year after year to do the work required,” she says.