Meet the Demands of Emerging Digital Distribution Platforms with APIs

Getting products out to the world’s market: revising them, modernizing them, and keeping up with ever-evolving customer expectations can be difficult. API-connected flexible platforms can help insurance carriers meet the demands of the modern digital marketplace.

June 10, 2022

Current insurance products are not API enabled to support digital distribution because the products are highly specialized and the API authors at the software companies are generalized. Historically, the cost to build custom APIs for each product and channel was too high to justify the revenue stream. Modern, configurable systems can generate the APIs from user friendly configuration tools greatly reducing the cost and time to create APIs that allow for digital distribution.  

The emergence of different lines within the specialty and E&S insurance industry have allowed MGAs/MGUs and carriers to better meet the needs of underserved small business populations. New product lines, distribution channels and customers also bring the challenge of getting products to market quickly to meet the new demand. 

There are three key requirements that MGAs/MGUs and carriers must meet to achieve top line revenue goals for 2022 and beyond. These include reaching as much of the market as possible, preparing products to meet the demands of the market, and quickly and easily modifying and modernizing products to respond to evolving market needs. These requirements can be met by partnering with a technology solutions provider that can help quickly enable products to be ready for digital distribution through robust and open APIs. The inherent flexibility of this API-enabled environment also empowers carriers to modify products faster than ever.  

Configuration tools to maintain specialty products are relatively new and tend to either be a complex user interface or a meta language or meta code that can be difficult to learn. Some vendors have taken a different tack and make use of compiling ubiquitous office tools from Microsoft and Google to make configuration much more user-friendly. The final modern step of this compilation process is to generate current RESTful APIs as well as a user interface to completely avoid the maintenance challenges of keeping APIs and legacy systems in sync.  

Excel remains the industry’s go-to platform for product pricing and rule definitions because of its ease of use and inherent flexibility. A product team can build out any insurance product from travel insurance to public risk and anything in between. This flexibility can be both a blessing and a curse allowing for product creativity but also unnecessary processing complexity. Despite flashy new tools that promise to make calculating risk premiums faster and easier, product actuaries in the industry prefer Excel time and time again. When Excel makes no assumptions, it allows actuaries and other product team members to edit and customize as much as needed – which is valuable in quickly moving complex Specialty and E&S products to market. Inflexible systems invariably have pre-built workflows and schemas that limit flexibility in building complex products in the Specialty and E&S space. 

Where does this leave the automation effort to get from a product modeled in Excel into the enterprise architecture and then beyond the enterprise into the digital distribution ecosystem? In many cases, the leap is too great to update products on a frequent basis, leading to frustration by agents and brokers when the product does not quite match customer needs. In order to create APIs that allow for digital distribution, deliberate IT initiatives must be scheduled to build the specific capabilities required for the complex product and the demands of a resilient API ecosystem.  

APIs must be open, robust, and flexible enough to take on any potential challenges inherent with these unique and complex products. According to a survey DRC conducted in collaboration with Gartner Peer Insights involving 100 insurance leaders (CEOs and VPs), 89% of respondents have RESTful APIs, but do not consider themselves ready for digital distribution. Every new distribution opportunity then becomes a painstaking individual IT project because each specialty product requires specific customizations. Further complicating this process is the fact that every digital distribution platform has its own set of requirements as well. Each time a product is onboarded, carriers must invest in lengthy training to get the product team ready for integration as well as prepare APIs for procedures such as quoting, binding, and post-payment.  

This complex environment has inevitably caused carriers to look outside of their organization for a professional technical partner. This is reflected in the fact that 67% of survey respondents opted for external partners to activate APIs instead of building an in-house API-deployment team from scratch. This internal-build strategy stresses resources, slows the digital distribution process and puts companies at a competitive disadvantage due to delays in quickly getting to market. If Specialty carriers find the right technical company to partner with, they can be ready to reach previously unreached markets faster through flexible digital distribution platforms. 

Decision Research Corporation (DRC) brings this critical flexibility and connectivity to carriers and MGAs. Flexibility is delivered via our robust rating engine, RS X Rating. RS X Rating uses the familiar Excel user interface for configuration of insurance products. This no-code platform not only generates web services for pricing calls, but also includes immediate access to DRC’s robust library of 130+ APIs, enabling submission, quoting, binding, issuance, and servicing. Via one click check in, a business user is simultaneously generating internal services, external APIs, an optional user interface, all of which are version controlled and effective data driven. 

Rob Whitton, VP of Business Development, speaks to the importance of flexibility and connectivity in digital distribution: “The increase of new digital distribution channels can expose pain points when carriers bring products to market, especially complex products that require constant customization and modification like in Specialty lines. Carriers that are prepared to go to market with digital tools have an advantage and are better able to serve their intended market and can stay ahead of competitors. It’s technology providers like DRC that can help ensure carrier success by delivering the APIs and flexible software solutions they need.” 

DRC’s flexibility and connectivity can help carriers prepare complex products for any distribution channel, helping specialty carriers easily adapt to market demands. Carriers that are able to make product changes frequently and easily will stay ahead of the market and exceed customer expectations.