Analytics is Ubiquitous - A View from the Insurance Analytics Symposium

Well, I just arrived home from Insurance Networking News’ Insurance Analytics Symposium and I have to say, it was worth the trip.  This being the inaugural event, it was a small event by most trade show standards, but the high-quality crowd was a good mix of business and technical people that included insurers vendors and analysts. 

The keynote speaker was David Lee from AIG.  It was interesting to hear from David because he represents the forefront of change happening in the industry.  As everyone knows, AIG is investing heavily in the use of analytics and applied mathematics to change its way of doing business.  David is one of the founding members of AIG’s efforts and has overseen its development over time. 

When I asked Holli Gronset the Publisher of Source Media-owned INN, which sponsored the event, why Source Media decided to launch the symposium, her take was that the interest she’s seeing in articles, research and webinars around analytics in the insurance space made this show worth launching.  Based upon the level of interest participants were showing and the conversations we were having, I agree wholeheartedly. 

Overall, the quality of the presentations and the conversations were quite good.  I was disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to see James Taylor, the CEO Decision Management Solutions, speak but I was lucky enough to have a conversation with him during the cocktail hour.  He is a very engaging individual that has the rare quality of being able to make you think and laugh at the same time.  One key point I walked away from is that we, as an industry, shouldn’t fall in love with the pure technology of building analytical models. Rather, we need to focus on what sort of business impact analytics can make.  A model that is 99.99999% accurate is useless if you can’t operationalize it. 

In a similar vein, what I love about the insurance industry is that we tend to keep things realistic. I was listening to one of the blue sky presentations that dealt with tracking feeds from Facebook and Twitter, integrating that with big data and making personalized market-of-one recommendations to someone driving their car past the insurers’ billboard on the 405.  While this visioning will help us plan for tomorrow insurers do have to work with systems that they have in place today.  This was brought home to me during this presentation, when an insurer sitting next to me leaned in and said to his associate, “Big data and Twitter feeds?  I’d be happy if I could just keep my client datamart clean and squeeze some improvement to my account penetration.” I almost laughed out loud. 

What struck me was how much the focus on analytics has changed.  It’s at the point that when I talk to a client or am reviewing a particular subject I almost forget to bring up analytics.  Why?  Analytics is a significant part of every discussion.  Whether the discussion is about policy administration or claims, billing or commissions, direct sales or agency sales, it’s assumed that there will be an analytics component.  It’s not about just providing insight anymore though, it’s about driving the business real-time and leveraging analytics to help insurers adjust their processes, sales and marketing with real world tactics that can be leveraged today, with systems and data that is available.  As Holli noted, it’s a groundswell and there is a chance to make a real difference.