I was speaking with some industry colleagues waiting at the airport after an Employee Benefits (EB) conference about the use of blockchain in EB to facilitate partnerships. It was a good discussion that may lead to an interesting implementation of blockchain between them, enabling a business goal that has been difficult to achieve with current systems.
One part of the discussion that struck me after was the assumption of a common standard for data transfer amongst the companies involved. Not surprising since the companies involved in the discussion are part of the EB LIMRA data standards initiative, including FINEOS. Thinking about this on the plane, a common standard is useful when known business partners come together to create a digital value chain, but it isn’t absolutely necessary since they could use a proprietary format between them. It’s more work and creates yet another legacy connection to manage but it can and has been done for years. The discussion changes when you introduce concepts like blockchain, which support secure but public communication between known and unknown parties.
“The technology behind bitcoin lets people who do not know or trust each other build a dependable ledger. This has implications far beyond the crypto currency.”* –
In a previous blog, we discussed closed and open platforms and the need for open platforms to connect with multiple providers of business capabilities, including those that may not exist when the platform is deployed. Open platforms have the potential to evolve into ecosystems where platforms can actually develop on an ad hoc basis. Blockchain is useful in deploying an ad hoc platform between parties that have rarely, if ever, done business together.
As the pace of the Employee Benefits market increases and new products and business models emerge, there will be more opportunities for casual, lower volume relationships or one-off deals that would be great for all the players as long as the time and cost required to make the data connections make business sense. Blockchain promises to help enable long term and casual relationships where carriers, employers and required intermediaries could share data appropriate to each company’s role in serving the Employee Benefits value chain with speed, low cost accuracy and security, if supported by an open ecosystem and well adopted industry standards.
FINEOS believes that following Open Core principles with a robust API strategy and active support for and adoption of the right industry standards will enable our FINEOS AdminSuite product to serve on a variety of platforms and support evolving Employee Benefits business models.
*”Blockchains: The great chain of being sure about things”. The Economist. 31 October 2015.
If you’d like to discuss this further, please contact Chuck.Johnston@FINEOS.com.