Five things insurers can do to expand analytics use

The fundamental principle of insurance is risk assessment and pricing. Traditionally these have been the areas where actuaries and insurance companies have used analytics to gain competitive advantage.

Today, the challenge for many insurance companies is how to apply analytics to solve broader business problems? How do you get business units, like underwriting, to adopt this technology? In a recent panel, at the SAS Financial Services Executive Summit, two insurance leaders discussed some successful tactics that you can use get your organization on board.

1.      Sow the seeds of innovation

If you want to expand analytics within your company, set up an environment where new ideas can flourish, according to Kimberly Holmes, Head of Strategic Analytics at XL Group.

When it comes to innovation, “there are no bad ideas,” she said. “We need to think of innovation as ideas that go into an incubator. Some ideas germinate and grow while others stay stagnant for a long time.” It’s easy to find reasons on why you can’t do something. Instead, focus on what you can do. Look for what is possible, Holmes said.

Paul Friedmann, Divisional Senior Vice President at Great American Insurance Company, said his company creates innovation labs. One person from six departments in the organization meet for six weeks to solve a particular business problem using data and technology.

2.      Federate your data

Analytics is only as good as the data it runs on. “We recognized federation of data was critical to us,” Friedmann said. Great American knew early on it needed a platform to support large external data sets and navigation across both structured and unstructured data. This includes the underwriter notes and all of the documents underwriters pull into their evaluation.

3.      Keep an eye open for new data sources

In addition according to Friedmann, it is important to look beyond traditional data to find and evaluate new, untried data sources.

His company has a research team dedicated to investigating new opportunities. “We leveraged that team to become part of our underwriting and claims organization to help us find new data sources and provide information on the validity of that data,” Friedmann said.

Once a new source is found, the company brings in technology teams to help make that data accessible to analysts, actuaries, claims adjusters, underwriters and even agents. “We don’t want our analysts in business divisions to discuss different data marts,” he said. “We want them to think in terms of, ‘I’ve got a problem to solve which information best resolves that business problem.’”

4.      Involve your underwriters

Underwriters are essential to the success of any insurance company and if you want your underwriters to embrace analytics as part of the daily process, Holmes suggests letting them own the project.

“We involve our underwriters in every decision that goes into creating and implementing predictive models,” she said. “It is their model. We don’t tell them how to adopt the model. They create the business rules.” She emphasizes that she gets underwriters to commit to a loss-ratio improvement at the start of the project. This way, implementation doesn’t just confirm what underwriters already know – rather, it should provide a competitive advantage.

5.      Focus on short-term successes for a big win

Implementing an enterprisewide analytics program can be initially overwhelming. But small rewards along the way lead to a big payoff at the project’s end. Those incremental changes lead to huge improvements, Holmes said. For example, bringing one or two new data sources into your risk analysis can have a significant impact on predicting risk.

“You’ll be shocked at the benefits you can get from something simple,” she said.  The early successes at XL Group have encouraged broader adoption of the technology within the organization.

The adoption of analytics is on the rise within the insurance industry. No longer is it viewed simply as a back office function used by actuaries for risk and pricing. By following these five steps, insurers can embrace analytics to drive innovation within their organization. For more information on the usage of analytics with insurance download a copy of the Analytical P&C Insurer or Analytical Life Insurer white papers.

I’m Stuart Rose, Global Insurance Marketing Principal at SAS. For further discussions connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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