Among the many exhibitors appearing at this year’s General Arab
Insurance Conference (GAIF) is a company aiming to effect a quiet revolution through a skilfully targeted piece of technology that is available from any web browser.
Qatarlyst is a web-accessible platform for the placement of insurance
and reinsurance transactions. It was developed in association with the Qatar Financial Authority, and currently has 35 approved customers in the Middle East and beyond—not bad going for an industry historically wedded to transacting business with paper.
James Sutherland, chief executive officer, is the person behind Qatarlyst.
He launched the platform in the Middle East last year. “We worked with a group of interested insurance firms in the region and in London during the development of Qatarlyst. They were the early adopters, and we moved on following their trading paths.”
Since then, Qatarlyst has lived up to its homophone counterpart and has kick-started something of mini revolution. “People now know about us and we are getting to the point where we have got a critical mass of users in the region,” says Sutherland.
Those who’ve already bought into Qatarlyst, be they brokers or
underwriters, are now enjoying time savings by conducting transactions online. “It eliminates a lot of what we call ‘busy work’ between brokers and underwriters,” says Sutherland, “such as tracking emails, looking at submissions and dealing with responses. It does this by providing structured work flow and data that, in time, they will be able to import into their own systems.”
With insurance now being a global business, Sutherland is aware that for
this platform to work, operating systems across the globe need to be able to talk to each other in the ‘same language’. “It’s important that everybody operates to the same standard, to enable linkage between platforms in different parts of the world,” says Sutherland. “We have adopted the ACCORD standard, which is used in the London markets, and this can be used globally to deliver standardised messaging.”
Despite the positive reactions to Qatarlyst so far, there has inevitably
been some resistance from certain individuals unwilling to change the way they do things, preferring instead to remain in their comfort zone. But Sutherland believes in the platform’s capabilities and thinks it’s only a matter of time before others do too. “We believe that the platform is easy to use and is intuitive, and that once potential subscribers use it for a short period, they will wonder how they could have relied solely on emails as a means of conducting what can be pretty substantial transactions.”
Another attraction is that anyone with Internet connection can access
it, although there are, as one would expect, a few hoops that need to be jumped through first. “It’s a highly secure portal; in fact, more secure than email,” asserts Sutherland. He adds that everything that is transacted on the site is encrypted, and that firms that sign up are vetted and have to go through a detailed application process.
“It is of course a concern to us who is a member,” says Sutherland, “but
we don’t expect members to do business through the platform with people with whom they wouldn’t normally do business.”
That it is a dedicated platform for conducting business is certainly a unique selling point for Qatarlyst. In addition to structuring workflow, it allows management teams to access information at any given moment, wherever they are in the world, using a system that is universally recognised. Sutherland is confident that this usability will build up a global community: “We have already seen examples of the platform being used to get submissions to reinsurers in Asia, and it is by following these trading paths that we will increase our global presence,” he says.
Supporting this projected expansion is a unique feature called Qatarlyst
Access, which allows members to inform non-members of the submissions they want to show them. By allowing non-members ‘read only’ access, Sutherland thinks they will see Qatarlyst’s functionality first-hand. He explains: “We hope it will develop knowledge and an appetite for Qatarlyst with firms that trade with firms in the Middle East, enabling us to branch out of a purely regional role.”
FREE FOR NOW
There is a saying that the best things in life are free, and Qatarlyst, despite
all that it offers, proves the rule. “At the moment, we are not charging for use of this system,” says Sutherland. “We believe other platforms’ revenue models have things the wrong way round, in that they charge users for every transaction. We think technology should be used to drive down unit costs.”
However, Sutherland does expect to start charging next year, as volumes
increase, but only after subscribers have enjoyed a free six-month trial period. “When we do charge, it’ll be a low-cost annual subscription based on the level of service required and the number of users in the member firm who have access to the platform. We recognise that in order to build a large community, we have to have low barriers to entry,” he says.
Those who do sign up can expect not only a platform capable of delivering
standardised messages into their own systems, but also one that will expand its functionality to include claims and accounting agreement and information, so that users will be able to agree their technical accounts over the platform.
Interested parties will be able to see a demonstration at this year’s GAIF conference, for which Qatarlyst is a gold sponsor and which Sutherland holds in high regard. “The GAIF conference is a wonderful opportunity to meet everybody who is anybody in the Middle Eastern insurance world, and this year promises to be exceptional. We’re delighted to support the conference and we’re very much looking forward to it.”
James Sutherland is the chief executive officer of Qatarlyst. He can be contacted at: j.su
Middle East Report 2010 | INTELLIGENT INSURER | 19
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