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Re/insurers should reorient their thinking to become even more data led: Swiss Re’s Ian Haycock

24th June 2021 - Author: Luke Gallin

With advancements in technology enabling carriers to leverage data in a more meaningful way, the insurance and reinsurance industry has an opportunity to refocus its thinking, derive greater insights and transform some of the inefficiencies within the business, according to Ian Haycock, Chief Data Officer at Swiss Re.

ian-haycock-swiss-re“For Swiss Re and companies like us in the industry, insights derived from data are going to be absolutely crucial success factors for the future,” said Haycock, in a recent interview with Reinsurance News.

Haycock has served as Swiss Re’s first Chief Data Officer for more than a year now, having been with the reinsurance giant for almost 18 years, mostly working in the firm’s asset management division.

While data has always been a part of the risk transfer industry, in recent times the advancement of technology has highlighted the potential for carriers to harness new insights to benefit all parties across the value chain.

Against this backdrop, we spoke with Swiss Re’s Haycock about the re/insurance industry’s use of data, the impact it can have and the potential opportunities that lay ahead.

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“If I look at insurance, what is clear is data has always been a part of the industry, if I think about what actuaries do, for example. But what’s happened recently is technology has changed the game.

“So, if you consider, for example, the sheer volumes of data, different types of data, and then the detailed granularity that we now have. And, you combine that with all of the processing power and all of these fantastic new techniques like natural language understanding and machine learning, I think the game has moved on,” said Haycock.

Historically, he continued, the insurance industry may not have invested enough priority or resources into these topics, especially when compared with some other sectors.

“This transformation is a fantastic opportunity for the industry, especially for technology experts and data scientists and so on for whom the industry might never have been an obvious choice.

“There’s never been a better time to be involved in the industry, because you’ve got some fascinating challenges to solve that are actually important for the world overall as well,” said Haycock.

Importantly, the mindset of senior leaders across the industry has really changed and now, the topic is positioned strongly. At Swiss Re digitalisation has been a key central business priority for more than five years, and Haycock noted how he sees other firms in the industry increasingly leveraging technology to grow their business.

“The industry is more active in tech communities, in collaborating with accelerators, venture capital groups etc. And then you see this sort of emergence of tech-oriented firms, large firms as well as small firms, which opens up new business and partnering opportunities. The industry is massively active now, and it’s a great opportunity indeed,” he continued.

According to Haycock, if re/insurers are going to make the most of the data opportunity, they need to refocus their thinking.

“This is going to sound simple, but I think it’s actually quite profound. I think one needs to refocus one’s thinking and see becoming data led as a priority: This will improve traditional business models and be the basis for new ones – as opposed to historically, when companies’ focus was on product creation supported by traditional IT automation, process modelling and optimisation. ”

“Refocusing to becoming more data led means investing in making a change as a business, as an industry. This goes beyond tech and needs to encompass topics like mindset, skills, governance, data foundations and so on.” said Haycock.

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