Quebec brokers’ association waves goodbye to the CSIO portal

By Stéphane Desjardins | November 19 2005 02:19PM

Unsatisfied because the Centre for Study of Insurance Operations (CSIO) portal is moving along at a turtle’s pace, Quebec’s property and casualty insurance broker association, the Regroupement des cabinets de courtage d’assurance du Québec (RCCAQ), is preparing to stop supporting the project.Exasperated by numerous delays and discouraged by the low number of advisors using the system in Ontario, Quebec brokers want to look elsewhere. Hubert Brunet, general director of the RCCAQ, affirms that the CSIO, even years after its launching, is still encountering numerous problems. “We will never accept to launch the CSIO portal in Quebec because it is an obsolete technology,” he says.

“We refused to launch the portal at our 2004 conference, because it was still not completed,” Mr. Brunet explains. He adds that they were then supposed to launch the operational version at the 2005 conference. But when it came time for the CSIO’s presentation, nothing was ready, he remarks. The launch was then delayed by another six months, and then pushed back to the beginning of 2006. “No one came to show us the demonstration of how the portal would work, as promised. It is very simple, we are tired of waiting,” exclaims Mr. Brunet.

We are very disappointed by the turn of events, Mr. Brunet adds. “In my opinion, the Independent Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO) made a mistake of ever launching the portal in Ontario since the technology was never fully-ready.”

Looking elsewhere

Mr. Brunet re-emphasizes that the CSIO technology is obsolete. “Seven or eight years ago, the portal was cutting-edge. But since then, other technologies have evolved and we may have the opportunity to adopt other business models than the portal.”

Independent technology specialists echo the same views of Mr. Brunet. They stress it would simplify matters if the computers of insurance companies and advisors communicated with each other without adding a new interface (portal).

Discussions that the RCCAQ held with the CSIO over the past few months have shed light on the way advisors want the project to be financed. Advisors want to be the owners of the portal, but they would like to see insurers finance the project, says Mr. Brunet. “Advisors will be receiving millions of dollars in contingency commissions this year… all they would have to do is allocate a small part of that to resuscitate the development of the portal,” he highlights.

However, the IBAO, which waved a red flag about the status of the CSIO portal in The Insurance Brokers Association of Canada’s (IBAC’s) last annual report (see The Insurance Journal, October 2005) is now expressing optimism. “I have always had confidence in the portal,” says Randy Carroll, chief operating officer of the IBAO. The fact that not many advisors are using it is not so important. What counts, is that we delivered the product. For the moment, the portal is simply a rating tool. Now we must look to the next step where we can pass from the brokerage’s agency system to the portal with the click of the mouse.” He says he is confident that insurers will continue to work on the portal until this is realized.

Meanwhile, John Morin, Quebec’s CSIO president, and president of the brokerage Morin Elliott and Associates, seems less optimistic these days when he speaks of the portal. “It is certain that I would have preferred that this project take-off a long-time ago,” he says. Mr. Morin stresses that if Quebec does not embark on the CSIO portal, there is little chance of its survival. Quebec is the second largest insurance market in the country, he observes. “I ask myself if the industry would accept the fact that a different technology would be adopted in Quebec while still having the CSIO portal in Ontario.”

Mr. Morin affirms that it took a lot of effort to convince insurers to sit at the same table and establish common norms. “Insurers are proud competitors,” he adds. “All of them had to come to the realization that establishing a common protocol for the transmission of information did not mean they would have a strategic advantage.