Insurance big data talent gap growing

Insurance big data talent gap growing

Finding the right talent to fill data analytics roles in the insurance industry is becoming more challenging, according to a panel of data analytics specialists.

Speaking at the 2nd annual Insurance Data and Analytics Summit in New York, data analytics leaders claim that one of the biggest challenges that the industry faces is a shortage of talent.

“Talent is a major problem and a huge challenge” said Chris Nicholas, AVP of applied analytics at Nationwide Insurance. “The way I see it is that there are three core skills that we really need and what we need is the intercession of those three core skills. Those skill sets are: a strong quantitative orientation, a strong computer programming orientation – and that includes the data side of the equation – and then the business consulting skill set is important as well.

“It’s not hard to find somebody with one of those skill sets, finding a PHD level statistician is a little harder than it was a year before but you can still do it. You can find computer science people and you can find MBAs. You can find each one of them pretty easily. That challenge is, though, when you talk about predictive analytics somebody needs to be able to explain the problem that is being solved, somebody has to be able to execute on that and finally somebody has to be able to explain what these findings mean and what we should do with them. Those three things are really hard to do with one person.”

Nicholas conceded that although, it is possible to take people at an early level and develop them into skilled data analytics professionals, it becomes difficult to retain that talent once it has been trained.

“We have endeavoured to hire more junior folks straight out of school, stats degree or science degree and we train them up on the job for three years, and the challenge is once they have got three years on the round applying the craft, their market value goes up dramatically,” he said.
Nicholas cited Google as a destination of some of his former employees and a typical destination for graduates who have trainees as data analysts in the insurance industry. 

Nicholas said: “We spend three years investing, and we get value out of the relationship with the employee, but they can name their price outside of our market pretty easily.”

Frank Neugebauer, chief information officer at United Educators, said that he had to look to China and India to find talent with the appropriate sills to be data analysts within the insurance industry.  

According to the panel, another interesting trend that was becoming more evident over recent years was the interest that senior management is taking in big data analytics, because of the availability of data and the immediate trends that it can show the senior management team.

Another point of interest that was raised at the panel was the ability of data analysts to prevent risks. Neugebauer cited a case in which college students were engaged in the practice of Robotripping (the practice of attempting to achieve a high from the excessive taking of cold medicine). Neugebauer stated that by using Twitter he and other analysts were able to calculate the risks involved with the practice, where it was taking place and how it could be prevented. This showed a practical example of how social data combined with other insurance anaylitics could prevent risks.

 “The question wasn’t what Robotripping is? It was how it is evolving on campus? We were piling together a significant amount of twitter data, in order to understand the sentence structures that would give us a clue about Robotripping,” he explained.

 By looking for pattern mismatches analysts were able to decipher exactly what kind of Robotripping activity was happening on campus and, where it was happening and how many students were doing it therefore allowing them to build up a risk profile and to prevent that risk in the future. 

 The panel was chaired by Gene Bloomberg of IBM, and Upendra Belhe of Chubb also took part.


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