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Steadfast interface costly and complex, says Ebix

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The ongoing maintenance of an interface between Ebix Australia’s broker systems and the Steadfast Virtual Underwriter (SVU) transaction platform is a high-cost item that has to be agreed by negotiation, Ebix CEO Leon d’Apice says.

He says designing and building the interface is only one part of the project, and that “basic misunderstandings” about what is required in terms of ongoing service and maintenance may have been a factor in the breakdown of the negotiations between the two companies.

insuranceNEWS.com.au reported last week that Ebix’s invitation to attend this week’s Steadfast Convention in Melbourne was reversed on Tuesday, several weeks after negotiations between the two companies stalled over the commercial terms Ebix quoted to build and maintain the interface.

Mr d’Apice said yesterday Ebix is willing to resume the negotiations at any time, but Steadfast “could assist by telling us exactly what they want”

“They asked us for our commercial model, and when we gave it to them they just said no without proposing an alternative.”

He believes there may be a lack of appreciation of the work required in an interface project of this size.

“If the SVU performs as well as Steadfast claims then we expect a very large support component will be needed.

“If you want to have a fully functioning and reliable interface to the SVU, you must have a constant requirement to support it,” he said. “That involves a whole lot more than people seem to appreciate.”

He says the Ebix-owned Sunrise Exchange transaction platform is supported by a team of five on the help desk, plus seven technicians and a number of developers “working full-time to ensure its efficient operation”.

Mr d’Apice says software for platforms and linked broker systems are constantly updated as new products come online or are adjusted and programs of all the various components are upgraded.

“When you update or upgrade software, you have to ensure the impact of external interfaces aren’t detrimental to the functionality of the other parts of the system. That’s why an interface has to be carefully designed, robust and flexible at the same time.”

Steadfast CEO Robert Kelly told insuranceNEWS.com.au last week the disagreement is purely about money, and “the price they want is completely uneconomic”.

But Mr d’Apice says some Ebix clients “have told us they want to integrate their broker systems with the SVU. For us, any other issue is secondary to that. We need to do this for our clients.”

He says Ebix is “keen to negotiate a resolution around this” with Steadfast, “but we can’t move until Steadfast tell us exactly what it is that they do want”.

He says speculation on the commercial impact on Sunrise Exchange from the SVU coming into full operation with an efficient broker systems interface is “not the issue”.