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Making Use of Under-Utilized Big Data in the Insurance Industry

In this special guest feature, Adam Bratt, CTO and Co-Founder of Indio Technologies, points out that the topic of big data in insurance has been an emerging hot topic over the last year. Adam has been building fintech products for the last decade. His first company Advantage WebTools provided a full CRM for hundreds in the debt settlement industry. Later as VP of Product at Benzinga, he created Marketfy, the first marketplace where users can follow and execute the same trades as experts of different financial sectors. In his spare time, he coaches companies as a growth hacker in residence at 500 Startups.

The big data market is in the midst of an astronomical growth period. A 2018 study by Wikibon predicted big data market revenues to increase from $42 billion in 2018 to $103 billion in 2027, while an Accenture study found 79 percent of executives said companies that don’t begin using big data could find themselves squeezed out of their own markets and “may even face extinction.”

Even amidst this boom, many in the insurance industry are not fully harnessing the power of data. This stems, at least in part, by the fact that “big data” is often misunderstood. In fact, the term itself is a misnomer that can lead insurance agencies astray, because “big data” doesn’t have to be big at all.

The term can lead to a sort of paralysis for agencies that may become intimidated and think they have to execute a full business intelligence overhaul to make data useful to their organizations. However, this is simply not true – companies can, and should, start small. That’s what true data-metric powered companies look like.

How can insurance agencies begin to use this data?

Rather than approaching big data as part of a complete system overhaul, agencies should work from within. Companies should begin with data stewardship, working with data that’s already available to analyze internal operations.

Again, it’s crucial to understand that analyzing data doesn’t have to take place within the context of a BI overhaul. Agencies can start with something as familiar as an Excel spreadsheet, cleaning up data as a starting point to then harnessing that information to improve company processes.

Once companies have gathered and cleaned up that data, it’s vital to make it both measurable and visible. Unless that data is visible and clearly measured, agencies won’t be able to do anything to then influence that data and improve company operations.

When considering how to use big data, insurance agencies should move away from the notion of using that data in ways that are specific to the insurance space. Instead, they should get into project-management mode, using data to analyze, for example, how long a renewal process takes, how many days it takes to get a certificate for clients or how many days it takes employees to complete a given project.

Once they’ve made that data visible and measurable, agencies can analyze and utilize that data to improve internal processes. In short, start small with big data, and start from within.

How data can help a broker differentiate from the competition

At its core, an agent’s primary role is to provide service to their customers. It’s important to always keep that front and center to a company’s mission, and to apply that service-focused mindset to utilizing data. Agencies should develop realistic expectations that center around what a company can truly achieve with data to set themselves apart from the competition.

It’s great to be able to talk about cost savings for clients, but it can be difficult to produce those reports, and more difficult than most agencies realize. Instead, they can focus on using data and shift the focus internally.

From there, rather than presenting murky data on cost savings analysis, brokers can produce hard data to clients on speed and quality of service. For example, brokers can show clients that most agencies take three to four days to produce a COI. After examining internal data and working to improve their own processes, an agency showcase their competitive edge to clients – that it only takes their agency 24 hours to get a certificate.

How specialization will help agencies excel & keep a wrap on data

Specialization is important both within and outside the context of data. Clients and consumers in any sector want to work with individuals and companies that are experts in their niche. Being able to showcase this expertise, which is especially powerful when based on hard data, is a significant asset for client-facing operations.

Specializing helps agencies make predictions and show important benchmarks to clients, presenting compelling data on how their organization specializes. Brokers will be able to show prospective customers the industries they cover, and within those industries, what kind of coverage most clients get and what they’ll pay for that coverage.

Rather than overhauling an entire company’s data analysis system, an intimidating process that may not yield the results an agency is looking for, insurance agencies should use data to play to the strengths they already have. Agencies should start with the niches they already know extremely well, and present that knowledge and expertise using hard data to bring in more business. In this way, agencies can excel by using data in the way that makes the most sense for their particular agency – by starting small, and working from within.

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