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August 24, 2012

ID Federation - helping to manage passwords

2 min read

Topic: Company Newsroom Community

It is no secret that one of the greatest headaches for independent agencies is the need to deal with creating and maintaining passwords for each insurance company and other business partners. One large bank agency manager recently said that she and her staff have to manage 5,500 different IDs and passwords for the bank’s agency employees.

An exciting development that will hopefully help is the creation of ID Federation, Inc. This new industry organization recently released the first public version of a Trust Framework that will enable agency employees (and carrier employees) to create federated, digital identities that would be trusted by multiple carriers and other business partners.

Here is how it would work. The typical agency (called a “user authority”) would contract with a vendor (“identity provider”), which would create digital identities for each of the agency’s employees (“users”). These digital identities (SAML tokens) would be passed to carriers (“relying parties”) that have established a trust relationship with the agency’s identity provider, pursuant to the Trust Framework that both the vendor (identity provider) and carrier (the relying party) have agreed to. The agency employee (user) would only have to log on to the identity creation and management tool (identity provider) that the agency has selected and then would be able to conduct business with his or her multiple carriers, whether using Real Time or logging on to the carrier’s website, without entering carrier-specific passwords. The agency and carrier, of course, would continue to be governed by the business agreement that runs between them. Some very large agencies might become trusted identity providers directly (rather than using a vendor), and one large bank agency has already done so.

The next steps are for vendors to build the identity creation and management tools for agencies to use; for these identity providers to establish trust relationships with the carriers; and for carriers to be able to accept digital identities (SAML tokens) to authenticate their agency users in place of passwords.

Federated, digital identities would greatly reduce this enormous pain point for agencies today. They would result in a significant step forward for carriers to provide this for their agents.