Hiscox hosts its first hackathon

Hiscox throws open its numbers at a one-day event to help gain insights into the business.

Hiscox hosted its first  hackathon in London, where data analysts from inside and outside the business gathered to pore over its claims information to help answer some of the big questions about the future of property insurance.

During a time of huge change in the industry, with intense competition and new technology challenging the traditional business model, established players need to look at how the vast amounts of data they collect can offer new insights into improving customer relations and boosting efficiency.

In the past 18 months, Hiscox has a renewed focus on using data to improve key decisions. “We believe data is a strategic asset,” says Steven Wilkins, Group Head of Data Labs. “We hold a lot of it and we now increasingly have the skills to understand that data and to use it to improve the key business decisions we make. By doing that, we create more value for our company, shareholders and customers.”

We have all the information we need internally, it’s just a case of using it in the right way to assist our decision makers.

Hiscox is focusing on uncovering new answers from its existing data rather than trawling new information sources. Smart devices and behavioural analytics have been hailed as the future, but there’s a big danger that companies waste money on ‘Big Data’ projects because they don’t know how to use the information produced, says Wilkins. “We have all the information we need internally, it’s just a case of using it in the right way to assist our decision makers” he adds.

The strategy is to be nimble, which can only be achieved by demonstrating how data can improve decision-making and be applicable in everyday work, argues Wilkins. So, for example, Hiscox is using machine learning to help identify underperforming areas and feed that information into its actuarial and pricing teams. A data analytics exercise on its London Market  property portfolio is helping underwriters gain a deeper understanding of its performance to help them improve the book.

Finding the truth in data

Hiscox has so far only scratched the surface of understanding its own data, which is why it held a hackathon on 12th October to crowdsource the analysis of its reams of anonymised property claims information.

The London event  saw more than 50 people crunch the numbers to try to answer three questions: what are the main trends driving losses; is there an optimal deductible level; and how can we use data to better predict the future cost of claims?

We believe analysing this claims information will have a tangible impact on our P&L, because by identifying key trends we can then fine-tune our pricing accordingly.

“We believe analysing this claims information will have a tangible impact on our P&L, because by identifying key trends we can then fine-tune our pricing accordingly,” says Jared Magrath, Data Scientist at Hiscox London Market.

Hiscox opened the event to data analysts from different fields to help provide some fresh perspectives. “We want to get the views of data analytics experts who don’t have an insurance background. Encouraging new ways of thinking will allow us to look beyond how the insurance industry currently uses and interprets data. ” says Magrath.

For the hackathon to achieve its purpose, the insights gleaned from the raw data need to be clear and easily digestible. Through partnering with Tableau, a company that specialises in data visualisaton, this task is made possible. “The science of visualisation helps us encode data in a way the brain can interpret easily, accurately and quickly,” says Andrew Kemp, Senior Sales Consultant at Tableau.

Encouraging new ways of thinking will allow us to look beyond how the insurance industry currently uses and interprets data.

The event will, Magrath and Wilkins hope, help Hiscox to realise its long-term ambition to be a more data-driven company. “We’re still at the start of the journey but we hope the hackathon will help to spark interest in the London Market business unit” concludes Wilkins.

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