Brewing up a smart blend of tech and data

Hiscox London Market’s Technology Director – Paul Butler joined the business in January 2020. What attracted him to the role? What is Hiscox’s data strategy trying to achieve? And, what are his tips for brewing the perfect pale ale?

What’s your background?

I’m a data engineer/architect at heart and have worked with data for over 25 years. This is my first role in insurance though. I started out in banking, spending 16 years working in various engineering and tech lead roles.

What roles did your contracting involve?

My first contract was with a B2B start-up looking to help small and medium sized businesses switch their energy provider. I was the only tech person in a team of ten and we built that business over seven years to 250 people working in London and Australia.

It was hugely exciting coming from a banking environment to something that operated at a super-fast pace. After seven years I looked for a new challenge, and contracted at another start-up (within an enterprise). Its core business was getting retail point of sale data from thousands of retailers and using it to help predict what products will be selling in three to six months. My role was to help with their digital transformation by reducing the manual effort and automating processes wherever possible.

Why join Hiscox London Market?

I was attracted to the role because we need to be disruptive as an industry and as a business. The way that insurance companies work is perhaps like banking was six or seven years ago before they were forced to react to the new start-ups in the sector. I want to help Hiscox be one of those companies leading the way in working with technology and data. Ultimately, I’d like us to disrupt from the inside rather than have some disruptive entity from the outside eat our lunch.

In what areas do you see that potential for leading the way?

So much of what we do is about making decisions on data. The way to reduce claims costs, for example, is by producing better data analytics. What I want to do is make sure our team is geared up to accelerate the growth we need in the smart use of tech and data.

Our data strategy involves putting a new emphasis on the role that data engineers can bring in helping the business both rationalise the way different insurance lines access data, eradicate duplication and allow underwriters to extract more insight and value from the data to help deliver better returns.

Imagine creating a factory. You put up the building, set up the production lines, feed in the raw material and deliver a finished product. That’s exactly what’s going on in Hiscox London Market only the raw material we’re using here is data. You put that raw data – which could be related to pricing or exposure management for example – into the production line where you enhance it, cleanse it, and validate it ready to be used by the business.

How will clients and brokers benefit from the work you’re doing?

We’re seeing some great results in the way our overall data strategy is going. For example, we recently demonstrated our new claims bordereaux (bdx) dashboard in Tableau. On the face of it, it is just a dashboard – but behind the scenes we have a whole new cloud data platform driving this; ingesting, transforming and cleansing data from multiple coverholders from the Lloyd’s Delegated Data Management system.

Being able to properly match claims to risk bdx data allows us to price more competitively for quality risks and better understand the performance of our coverholders. We can now spot claims arising in certain geolocations with certain perils and the type of damage caused by them and see some clear patterns.

Those coverholders who perform well are likely to get more business. So far, we have five years of claims bdx for our top six household coverholders – providing these new and valuable insights. Analysis of this data will certainly drive our actions in the 2021 renewals.

Further value will follow when we start to provide the risk data paired with the claims data for more coverholders and other lines of business. In 2021 we will be looking at commercial and portfolio lines.

What’re those in the shelves behind you (we’re videoconferencing of course)?

Records, CDs and books on beer. I brew my own beer – pale ales mostly – and have a micro-brewery in the garage.

What’s your tip for brewing great beer?

Use quality ingredients such as plenty of good hops. I’ve got a German brewing machine which has a computer – a Braumeister – and if you get a great brew you can recreate it automatically. BruHaroo was going to be my brewery name.

I also love music and have my own music studio. When I get a new hobby, I buy all the kit and use it for a few years then move on to the next hobby. But the two hobbies aren’t mutually exclusive. Music sounds better – especially mine – when you’ve drunk lots of beer.


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