By Ara C. Trembly
As an aspiring guru in high school and college, I have to admit that mathematics was not my forte. Oh, I could do basic calculations and even enough algebra to ace my physics class. But when we got into more esoteric areas, my writers brain was toast.
That all changed, however, with a unique college course entitled “Concepts of Mathematics.” What made it completely different is that instead of filling blackboards and notebooks with formulas, we simply talked about math and some of the basic concepts that underlie it as a discipline.
One of the most memorable examples from that course was a sort of riddle: If youre standing 10 feet from a wall and with each step you cover half the distance to the wall, how many steps will it take you to reach the wall?
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Ill give you a moment to think about this.
The answer, of course, is that you will never reach the wall, because no matter how many steps you take and how miniscule the distance between you and the wall, you will only cover half of that distance.
So why do I bring this up in a supplement devoted to the development of standards in the insurance industry? Precisely because the industry has for years been taking half-the-distance steps toward achieving universal standards of the type that will allow such desirable outcomes as single-entry, multiple-company interface (SEMCI).
In the years Ive been covering the insurance industry, Ive seen plenty of products and technology initiatives that have advanced our knowledge and made our communications more efficient. But as I write this, were not even close to the point where everyone is speaking the same electronic language.
ACORD is to be applauded for taking the lead in standards developmentand thanks to ACORD, we are making progress. Yet insurance doesnt seem to be able to get its arms around standards the way that competing financial services industries have.
Why should this be?
One reason is that insurance companies insist on seeing themselves as combatants, rather than as healthy competitors who share many common interests. As Judy Johnson, formerly an insurance analyst at Meta Group, Stamford, Conn., said a year ago in National Underwriter, carriers continue to “act like a bunch of hostile neighbors” when it comes to transaction standards.