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Whitespace ready to roll out ‘headless’ integration: Broome

There is ‘substantial’ interest in systems integration, whereby brokers and underwriters use their in-house systems seamlessly with the Whitespace platform, Marcus Broome says

Electronic trading platform Whitespace’s chief platform officer describes how the re/insurance market is moving away from traditional documents to working entirely with data

Digital e-trading platform Whitespace has reached the next stage in the evolution of electronic placement – enabling its users to integrate their data across systems via APIs, according to its chief platform officer, Marcus Broome.

In an interview with Insurance Day, Broome says an 18-month trial of “headless” trading on Whitespace, between a London broker and a Paris-based underwriter, is now “moving into production”.

“Headless means the Whitespace platform’s APIs can connect directly to other systems. The Whitespace browser and/or iOS applications – the head – would be completely hidden from the user,” Broome says, adding this functionality is “ready to roll out now”.

Users of Whitespace have always been connected to its platform through its APIs, ever since it launched five years ago, as the Whitespace applications are themselves entirely API-driven. The “missing part”, Broome says, was connecting another computer to them.

The development is a shift for the market away from traditional documents to working entirely with data. There is “substantial” interest in systems integration, Broome says, whereby brokers and underwriters use their in-house systems seamlessly with the Whitespace platform.

There are 30 to 40 companies at “various stages” of integration with the Whitespace platform.

“Everyone is welcome to integrate fully with our APIs now and more and more firms are doing so,” Broome says. “These things take time and very often organisations want to start using the platform as a browser experience. A decision on full integration is a decision to spend money, not necessarily with us but usually on the customer’s side.”


Unique selling points

The fact Whitespace is designed to be a fully data-driven platform is its main unique selling point (USP), but Broome highlights two more USPs. The first of these is a “truly modern” user experience.

He says: “When we started building the platform, the first thing we built was an iPhone app. The process of getting an app approved to put on the App Store entails running it past Apple so it can carefully check the way you’ve built the application because it guards very jealously the whole experience of apps on iPhones, iPads and its other devices.”

“Everyone is welcome to integrate fully with our APIs now and more and more firms are doing so. These things take time and very often organisations want to start using the platform as a browser experience. A decision on full integration is a decision to spend money, not necessarily with us but usually on the customer’s side”
Marcus Broome

Data delivered this way enables a good user experience on a small device. “We’ve all had the job of trying to read a PDF on a small screen, where you’re constantly pinching and scrolling and you can’t remember what you’ve seen elsewhere. But if you use a genuine app, you can interact with the data,” Broome says.

Whitespace’s other USP is the “sheer scale and financial stability” of being part of Verisk Analytics, which has an insurance-related annual turnover of $3bn. Being part of Verisk, Whitespace has the freedom to innovate at its own pace – and provides an environment that allows even the largest of firms to contract with confidence using standard commercial terms, Broome adds.


Accelerating growth

Whitespace has more than 260 firms trading on its platform, which includes more than 8,000 individual users. They vary from start-up brokers to the largest underwriters and brokers in the market, Broome says.

Growth in the use of the Whitespace was steady until October 2023, when it started to accelerate “very fast indeed”. “We had a tripling of volumes going through Whitespace and, by year end, we were close to a four-times multiple,” he says. One factor behind that growth has been transactions from a large broker, Marsh.


“We’re seeing more volume in January to date coming up to the February 1 renewals than we saw in December last year, which is another indicator that volumes on the platform are ramping up,” Broome says.

Whitespace exclusively has invested in its platform, Broome stresses. “We don’t ask anybody for development funding and our costs are eminently reasonable.”

Whitespace has two payment models: a “pay-as-you-go” monthly subscription of between £122 ($154) and £243 and an onboarding fee of between £3,000 and £3,500, depending on the size of the customer.

“We joke there’s every chance a user would spend more on lunch in The City in one day than they would for a month using our platform,” Broome says. “We’re priced aggressively with the aim of being deployed wherever there is offer and acceptance in the insurance process.”

As well as a subscription fee, Whitespace also offers an “all-you-can-eat” option, which is a fixed fee for firms that have yet to determine how quickly they can integrate with the platform. “A fixed fee for unlimited use is a very popular option,” Broome says. “Customers know the price won’t change however many risks they write and however many of their brokers or underwriters use the platform.”

It also offers an API-based “fee-per-risk”, so an IT department of a large broker can make a single connection to the platform, “to do the work of 1,000 people in a single morning”.

“We needed to have a model that recognised how the success of integration was compromising our subscription fee and so we have this other model, on a per-risk basis driven by the APIs.” Broome says, “and the same ‘all-you-can-eat’ option is still available to API users, meaning there is no danger of overspending.”


Speed to market

It takes “days, at most” to onboard a new user of the platform, Broome says. “Whitespace is ‘software-as-a-service’, meaning we don’t have to do any implementation work to onboard someone; we merely have to tell the software they’ve signed a contract.”

He adds: “The thing that can sometimes take time is with the modern single sign-on approach, so you don’t need to have a new password to access Whitespace. The Whitespace technology will talk to your in-house security to allow a single sign-in, which can take a few days. For larger customers, which might want to bring in their business in other markets and trade with a lot of organisations, we need to make sure their partner firms are also onboarded, which can take a few weeks.”

The speed of the onboarding process is helped by the fact many new customers are already familiar with Whitespace from what they have heard from their peers. “It’s a network effect where our customer engagement is not so much selling the platform as enabling people who have already reasoned with their partners they too want to trade on it,” Broome says.

Whitespace has had 99.98% of uptime since its launch in August 2019 and 99.93% in the past six months.

“We’re delivering more uptime than our service level of 99.8% dictates,” Broome points out.


Roadmap milestones

A “major change” coming to the platform in March or April, Broome says, is enabling endorsements to be recorded as a change to a subscriber’s contract.

“The current system is a subscriber receives a document for every new endorsement, which is attached to their original policy. The change will be to embed endorsements into their contract as a contract change. That’s a major shift coming up within our roadmap.”

Whitespace’s “aspirations” for 2025 include enabling subscribers to use its software for negotiating complex claims contracts. A recent change that would assist this is the integrating of payment technologies that allow its customers to organise the movement of funds resulting from a transaction on Whitespace between themselves.

Along with the JavaScript Object Notation format Whitespace uses, it has “separately identifiable” formats for Blueprint Two and Core Data Record. As its customers migrate to data-only trading, Whitespace also supports traditional documents. “We have a substantial investment going on now to make the migration process quicker and easier by creating a more effective toolset for contract building,” Broome says.

“There’s no point in us trying to compete with Micro­soft Word, but we do aspire to have the best and most efficient way to create, edit and trade fully digital contracts and we are investing at the moment in the ‘create’ part of that, which will move us substantially from where we are now.”

This functionality will resemble digital “bricks” that can be picked up individually or as a group and dropped into a new contract. “And, like everything else we do at Whitespace, it will be available through our APIs, so that another piece of a subscriber’s technology will be able to look for and find a given clause.”

Whitespace is taking practical steps to build on its success in the London market by launching in the US, Broome says. This is a natural development, given Whitespace has been part of US data analytics and risk assessment firm Verisk since March 2021.

“We’re of the view Whitespace can be used in the global specialty market,” Broome says. “London is around 7% of global specialty premium, so we are looking to deploy the platform internationally and we see no reason why it can’t have a role wherever there is offer and acceptance in the insurance contracting process, whether that offer and acceptance occurs between individual people negotiating or whether it is technology matching an offer with an underwriter’s appetite.”


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