In our recent Red Olive and Exasol insurance-focused round table, we asked the following question:

“A lack of agreed business term definition or owner or data steward is often cited as preventing senior management from taking action quickly. Are these kinds of data governance problems affecting your business?”

To begin with, attendees at our round table made the point that business term definitions can vary between different parts of the organisation, causing confusion or blurring lines of responsibility and that using a defined glossary and a shared language would be beneficial for a project to work organisation-wide.

An interesting point was made about bringing in data specialists from outside the insurance sector, because they see data in a different way. “Historically, our data has always been the responsibility of actuaries and they use it in a particular way,” said one, “but if you bring someone in from, say, Amazon, they have a completely different view about, and relationship with data. That forces us to look at different perspectives and examine what is possible with data?”

There was general agreement about the way data is often viewed in the insurance sector. “My experience in the industry so far has been that data is still viewed with suspicion – everyone works in their silos with their own data and have built up their own language for it, but always in the context of the specific user,” said one speaker.

Banking versus insurance

Several people at the round table came from banking or finance backgrounds, where they felt organisations were more comfortable with imposing data governance and requirements.

“Does insurance want a stewardship model?” asked someone. “Are they comfortable with taking data away from the actuaries? There is a hard sell in insurance where quite often senior leaders don’t recognise the purpose of a data model or lineage and don’t distinguish between IT and data. Organisations need to remember that IT doesn’t own the data; the business is a custodian of it. Putting in a data governance strategy requires education across the business. And especially in B2B, we need to champion the empowerment that data can bring if you get it right.”

Participants agreed that actuaries and underwriters have a close relationship with their data – bringing an almost territorial feel. One data expert had some good advice, however:

“If you are a UK-registered company, the senior management certificated scheme is a great way to convince the people in your business to take steps on a comprehensive data project. Regulatory-wise, the members of the Senior Management Team (SMT) are personally accountable for the processes in the business, and therefore for the data that drives those processes. You can easily demonstrate the need for ownership and responsibility – the threat of the regulator saying you’re not in control of process because you’re not in control of data means that people have an incentive to look at data governance differently. Why not put it in senior leaders’ annual appraisal goals to put it at the heart of performance?”

Lloyds ‘leading the way’

There was also a good discussion about what sort of data to share with teams who were looking at using AI or machine learning to build efficiencies. One attendee said that he always gave teams access to both types of data – raw data where the quirks and insights lie, and normalised data which is more organised. “The raw data can provide a nugget of gold that you missed when you cleaned it. But it needs to be ‘played with’ in a sandbox, separate to your certified data.”

Lloyds of London has access to perhaps the biggest quantity of data in the market. “Lloyds will have the combined catastrophe data for the last 100 years,” said one attendee. “For those of us who are associated with Lloyds, we are benefitting from their charge to move us into this century as far as data is concerned. Their initiatives are led by very good people who understand where we need to be and how to get there.”

For other organisations, there’s also a need to get the most from expensive talent – such as underwriters or actuaries. “We need to look at what skill sets we’re going to need and where we find them. And then how we leverage our data capability to make those people the most efficient they can be, so the business gets real value for money for them. It’s about augmentation, not replacement – doing better things with the same talent.”

If you are interested in joining us for our next round table, email [email protected] and we will send you details about forthcoming events. If you are looking for more clarity on how to get more value from your existing data or moving to the cloud, get in touch with us or read our case study on how Red Olive has helped Admiral move to Google Cloud.

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