The world?s four largest insurance brokerages hit out at IBM?s criticisms of their global ecommerce network.
IBM, which is preparing pilots for its own alternative network, has claimed that the World Insurance Network (WIN) - developed by the four brokers and BT - is limiting and precludes customers.
IBM is preparing its first pilot site for Insure Risk Network, its own worldwide electronic commerce initiative.
According to Tom Brown, chief executive of WIN - established by brokers Aon, J&H Marsh & McLennan, Sedgwick, and Willis Corroon - ?We are not selling hot dogs on the Internet. This is a club with a legal framework for dealing between members. Ours is more a private network. The difference between us and IBM is that our members want secure messaging, guaranteed delivery; they want the network to be hack-proof, to have a guaranteed time-frame and an audit trail.?
WIN is also specified and run by practising insurance establishments, he continued, adding that IBM?s ?clone? would be a ?distraction? to many prospective members. ?We are in the insurance industry and we are insurance professionals; we are not BT or IBM,? he remarked.
WIN was launched as an independent company in November 1995. The four insurance brokers collectively control 70 per cent of the distribution of products and services for the world?s commerical market.
In July, the group unveiled its first service, called Win Connect, an electronic messaging service to allow brokers and insurance companies to exchange text, data, graphics and other information. The development of the network was subcontracted to BT which has provided parts of its Concert services. These include X.400 and X.500-based offerings.
Win Connect is being trialled by six partners: Commercial Union, Generali, Gerling, Cigna, Royal & Sun Alliance, and XL Insurance. WIN bosses have also promised there will be 30,000 brokers on the network with 300 insurance companies included in a directory. The group will also connect 1,200 insurance offices together in 80 countries.
IBM said its rival system will include customers, re-insurers and other service providers in the loop, and will be based on open standards such as Internet Protocol (IP).
Graham Mansfield, IBM?s insurance sector manager said: ?The feedback from our research of the market is that there is a requirement for an alternative [to Win]. Corporate risk managers need to be involved and they are not included in Win.?
Win?s Brown said corporates can join his network, which is also open to other brokers, but argued there would not be sufficient reasons for companies to fork out the investment and resources to hook up to the system.
?If corporates have the technical ability [to join the network] they can, but 90 per cent of large companies use brokers or serveral brokers anyway so why complicate things? They have the option to deal with insurance companies themselves but they prefer to use brokers,? he said.
IBM?s Insure Risk Network was established 18 months ago and is part of the company?s multibillion dollar Electronic Business initiative. The technology already provides the infrastructure for Ivans, a network of 500 insurance establishments supporting 100,000 users. Ivans is based in north America and provides a range of communications services to the insurance and healthcare industries.
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