MetLife, in collaboration with IBM, is set to launch for small businesses what it says it the nation’s first end-to-end benefit technology product for brokers, general agents and employers — covering everything from online quoting to plan administration to third-party platforms.

The insurance platform on the IBM Cloud will give MetLife the ability to tailor and scale its benefit offerings from quote to claim. Through a digital experience, customers and brokers will have access to a broader selection of group benefits, including: life, dental, vision, disability, voluntary and other products. The product, announced last week, will be released in the fourth quarter of 2018. As for pricing, James Reid, MetLife’s executive vice president of regional and small business solutions, says it is too early to discuss numbers.

The IBM Insurance Platform will feature cognitive computing, data analytics and integration and security capabilities designed to help insurers expand access to their products and capture new customers. MetLife will be the first partner to use it. While the insurer says it has been assured it will be the first to launch the offering, other companies may be able to offer the same platform after that point.

Bloomberg/file photo

Majesco, a multinational provider of insurance technology software and an established IBM partner, is contributing to the platform with components to enhance underwriting, policy administration, billing and claims. Delivered as a service, the platform will also help insurers sense changes in and respond to the market faster while reducing IT infrastructure and maintenance costs.

“This new direction provides us with the opportunity to introduce to the market a unique business model unlike any other. The strategy represents innovation in our approach to growth and is a testament to the reality that every company needs to become a technology company in order to survive,” says Marty Lippert, MetLife executive vice president and head of global technology and operations.

Joe Markland, president and founder of consultancy HR Technology Advisors, says the key question will be if the offering gets adoption.

“Without other significant carriers deciding to play on this platform then adoption will be difficult,” he says. “The targeted user in this case is the broker. If the broker has to use this system for Met and other methods for other carriers then the user will have to do more work than they are doing today.”

“Trying to get non-medical carriers on the same platform has been tried since 1998 without much success,” he adds.

Small market value
MetLife will focus the tool on small businesses because past research by the firm indicated that market segment needed a new tool most, and the segment is growing.

“We did a significant amount of research over the past few years with current customers, prospects, general agents and brokers,” says Reid. “What resonated from that work was that … brokers want simplicity from their carriers, but they also simplicity in the process … of going out to meet the needs of current employers and prospects.

“Employers, especially, in the small market, were looking for value,” he adds. “This platform, in collaboration with IBM, is going to meet and exceed those key aspects.”

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Brokers will be able to link in to the product however they want. For example, some brokers have their own quoting tools and can use the platform post-quote for billing and administration.

Reid adds MetLife is not looking to replace other companies. “Lots of brokers have invested or partnered with different entities,” he says. “Our job is not at all to replace those but to lock in and tie in [with] that brokerage based on their needs.”

It is not a “field of dreams” scenario of build it and they will come, Reid explains. Rather, “it will be education, engagement and most importantly, activation of what we are doing and hopefully the value it will bring to the small business market,” he says.

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