Brokers Beware: Insurance Consortium Reveals Codex 1 Blockchain Prototype

Michael del Castillo
Aug 29, 2017 at 12:00 UTC
NEWS

Blockchain insurance consortium B3i has revealed new details about its blockchain smart contract prototype, including advancements that could eventually remove much of the administrative work done by all counterparties.

In conversation with CoinDesk, director of global business solutions at reinsurance company Swiss Re, Paul Meeusen outlined how the platform could reduce the role of brokers, for example who seem particularly susceptible.

Internally described as "Codex 1," the prototype is designed to automate many of the processes involved in catastrophe reinsurance currently fulfilled by brokers, and eventually to improve the trading of risk more broadly.

In part, the prototype does this by giving the insurance companies seeking reinsurance, brokers and the reinsurance companies that serve them, access to the same, cryptographically secure distributed ledger.

While all the counterparties involved in the reinsurance workflow today remain intact in Codex 1, the prototype shows how insurance brokers could become the latest group to have some of its services rendered irrelevant.

Meeusen, who is also a founding member of B3i, said he sees substantial impact if the blockchain prototype were to be adopted on a large scale.

He said:

"The administrative involvement where part of what [brokers] do is collecting the papers from the different parties, then ordering them and passing them onto the next, that is of course becoming unnecessary."

Depending how you look at it, automating the administrative tasks could pose a threat to all counterparty services, but Meeusen explained that B3i would rather look at it as a way to allow the counterparties to focus on value-added advisory products.

Work on Codex 1 began earlier this year as members of the consortium – which includes Aegon, Allianz, Munich Re, Swiss Re, Liberty Mutual and Sompo Japan Nipponkoa – evaluated several potential use cases for blockchain.

The group finally decided to convert the Property Cat XL ("Cat" being short for "catastrophe") reinsurance work flow to a self-executing smart contract, specifically because its similarities around the world make it potentially widely adoptable.

"If you look at catastrophic risk, when the wind blows or the earth shakes, in simple terms, I would say the nature of that is very uniform across the globe," he said.

Passing on the savings

Since the early days of the consortium, Meeusen has advocated that blockchain technology could enable reinsurance companies to compete over better products, instead of just better platforms.

For example, in a typical Property Cat XL contract, a broker would receive quotes from multiple reinsurers and help organize which combination of risk assessment and pricing is most advantageous. They would then facilitate communication between each of the counterparties while keeping private the terms of the eventual deal.

With Codex 1, however, much of the broker's role is moved to a permissioned blockchain that automates both premium settlement and claim settlement, all while still ensuring the counterparties remain unaware of one another's terms.

The end result, Meeusen hopes, is that companies can focus their attention on creating more accurate risk assessments and better rates.

"We would expect that – just like reinsurers – when they become more efficient, over time they can offer more attractive prices," he said.

And according to Meeusen, if brokers don't get removed from the equation, he expects they will be able to "offer more attractive brokerage fees because their service is going to become much more efficient."

Broadening the use cases

While this first prototype is focused on property catastrophes, according to Meeusen, the group is ready to begin work on multiple other projects currently "on the shelf."

The next step will be to widen the scope of the offering to include casualty lines (such as motor vehicle accidents and worker's compensation), which Meeusen said will require little more than a "copy-paste" of the current smart contract.

B3i also aims to expand its blockchain work to include so-called "proportional contracts" that rely on pro-rated terms, as well as improving the actual creation of insurance-linked securities and bonds.

If successful, the prototype – scheduled for its first live demo at the Monte Carlo RVS conference in September – could eventually result in tokenized bonds, making trading risk as easy as trading cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ethereum.

Meeusen concluded:

"That's the master plan. But we first need to walk before we run."

Man on puzzle image via Shutterstock

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