Ellipse and Thomsons Online Benefits have completed the development of a data interface which enables group life, group critical illness and group income protection benefits to integrate seamlessly with Thomsons Darwin™ platform. It is the first system enabling the automatic processing of such benefits in the UK market.

Using the interface, member data is updated each time clients run their payroll and the cost of cover calculated for that month. The client therefore pays for exactly the cover they have, in the month that they have it, rather than having to contend with the problem of large annual premium adjustments being presented long after the accounting period in question – a perennial bugbear for employers offering group risk benefits. By reducing administration costs for the employer, intermediary and insurer, the platform interface also offers the prospect of sustainably lower costs feeding through to clients, at a time when many group risk providers have been presenting employers with large rises in their group risk prices.

The reduction in administration brought about by the interface was highlighted by Brenden Mielke, Product Director at Thomsons, who explained: “Since our inception we have always sought to reduce the administration associated with running employee benefits, by using our technology platform to integrate directly with those of the benefit providers. Historically, it could take four or five times as long to administer group risk benefits relative to pension benefits and no provider seemed willing or able to undertake the necessary system developments to enable a seamless link to our platform, Darwin™. We were delighted when Ellipse entered the group risk market with a commitment to offer services that made the best use of current technology. Now the project has been completed, we have a unique proposition to offer employers that will greatly simplify how their group risk benefits are handled, and importantly that gives them certainty over managing their group risk costs. Once the system has been linked to payroll, it largely runs itself.”

Ellipse’s Chief Operations Officer, Eva Schwandner, said that three particular obstacles needed to be overcome. “The use by providers of unit rates, the retrospective application of member underwriting decisions and a lack of investment in technology all made the digitising of such benefits nigh on impossible up until now. Ellipse’s practice of using member-specific rates means that the cost for each member is completely transparent and attributable, with no cross-subsidy between members.For employees accessing Darwin this means that they see the actual rate that applies to them so that they understand the true value of their employer’s investment, and in a flexible benefit arrangement they are paying the correct amount for the level of cover appropriate to their age and circumstances, rather than an aggregated rate as would normally be the case.”

“Our online member underwriting is also so much faster than traditional systems that we were confident that there was no need to worry about the period of cover members would enjoy between joining a scheme and completing the underwriting process. This means we can apply any loadings from the date of the underwriting decision rather than the usual practice of backdating them to when the member’s cover began.”

Thomsons first client, Peel Hunt, has already successfully made use of the integrated platform and is receiving automated monthly accounts within 24 hours of the data being processed. Thomsons plan to migrate further clients to the system as their policies renew and new clients will be offered it from inception.