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Interview: Data takes centre stage at Lloyd’s of London

The 330-year-old insurance market is evolving its data efforts as part of a far-reaching modernisation strategy, focusing on artificial intelligence and driving employee data literacy

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Lloyd’s of London is sharpening its focus on data innovation as a key pillar of its wider digital ambitions, which include robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and driving data literacy across the organisation.

The need to improve data quality and capture on a granular, real-time basis, as well as robust standards and governance processes, is receiving “a lot of deserved attention” from the 330-year-old insurance market.

As a result, the data lab set up by the organisation in 2016 is taking centre stage as a centre of excellence that will help Lloyd’s to provide enhanced products and services and reduce costs for customers.

In the past three years, the lab has worked on developing all aspects of the data “production line”, including operations, architecture and governance, and that work is now evolving.

“Now we’ve got the basics in place, we are developing these components further,” says Lloyd’s head of data innovation, Craig Civil. “With high-quality data processes now running, we are growing our sophistication in the level of insight we can provide to our internal and external customers.”

According to Civil, Lloyd’s is a “very spreadsheet-oriented organisation”, so one of the key tasks of the data function is to evolve presentation of data from “just typing a number into a cell” into storytelling.

To that end, the company is introducing data visualisation tools such as QlikSense and the data products team is developing a market insights portal, to be launched by the summer, to enable staff and other stakeholders to “interact and engage with the data, ask questions of the data and become more self-service”.

Evolving AI

Beyond evolving the fundamentals of data, a key area the insurer set out to focus on is AI and Civil has recently completed its AI strategy, covering the principles, ethical considerations and high-level business opportunities that could be enabled by the technology.

The work on AI initially sought to demystify the impact the technology would have for Lloyd’s, and evolved into defining relevant components, such as natural language processing (NLP), then proofs of concept in 12-week sprints with multidisciplinary teams. Technology firm Expert Systems has been enlisted to support Lloyd’s in its AI endeavours.

“With high-quality data processes now running, we are growing our sophistication in the level of insight we can provide to our internal and external customers”

Craig Civil, Lloyd’s of London

Civil says results so far have been “very positive”. For example, on NLP, the company has landed a key software component that can help Lloyd’s achieve more operational efficiency in its trading advice service.

“Having proved value in a couple of use cases, it is a case of putting that overall business opportunity wrapper around the whole AI opportunity and tackling it from a strategic angle to help and support our customers,” he says.

“We have our AI vision, principles and ethics of how we’re going to use it, and we are now evolving a plan for the business opportunities that we’re going to go after over the next 12 months to two years.

“That will be a mixture of AI and robotics, because the two are different.”

Production-ready services

Civil predicts that in a year’s time, Lloyd’s will have rolled out an increased level of what he defines as “production-ready services” using AI technology.

“We will have nicely merged AI and robotics together and identified more use cases for it,” he says. “The reports that we produce for the market will have been delivered in a visually engaging and increasingly digital format and we will be starting to roll out a limited set of standard data services.”

But when it comes to AI and NLP, Lloyd’s has “only scratched the surface”, says Civil.

“What we’ve done between 2016 and 2018 has proved the value of introducing that type of technology for Lloyd’s,” he adds.

The key component that has led to the progress the data lab has made so far around AI is not the tech, says Civil. Rather, there is a big change management effort to get things moving, particularly given the fears around AI that have rippled across the insurance sector.

“Having business people involved throughout the identification, testing and evaluation process is key to achieving success,” he says.

“Naturally, when you see the front of a newspaper and it’s got the Terminator robot face on the front of it and something along the lines of ‘AI is going to destroy your jobs’, people are a little bit reticent to want to come and engage and work with you.”

Driving data literacy

To get support and uptake of data-related technologies at Lloyd’s, the company has introduced a series of initiatives to help staff to become more informed about the uses of information.

“When talking about the digital transformation strategy, we recognised last year that we need to support and educate all staff to become data literate,” says Civil.

“Everything we do at Lloyd’s is underpinned by data. That means conveying the idea that the more that staff strengthen their data skills, the better they can do their job and help the organisation become more efficient as we get more insights about how we operate.

“As our staff become more data literate, we will become more sophisticated in what we can deliver and how we deliver it”
Craig Civil, Lloyd’s of London

“As our staff become more data literate, we will become more sophisticated in what we can deliver and how we deliver it.”

Work done by Lloyd’s in that area involved engaging with the Open Data Institute to understand how to bring data to life for staff through 14 education modules with blogs, quizzes and videos with experts that staff can access on any device.

“While we are not making data training mandatory, every member of staff has to do a personal development plan and we are encouraging them to get on board in this data literacy journey,” says Civil. “So managers are made aware of it and encourage their staff to take part.

“The content is designed to educate staff about data and providing examples in what we hope is a visually engaging, enticing way. We have blended industry examples about how to use data and combined that with actual examples for Lloyd’s to make it real for people.”

Deliberately non-technical

Another development within the initiatives led by Lloyd’s data lab is the focus on data science, with a “deliberately non-technical” programme created in partnership with Southampton University’s Data Science Academy.

Under the eight-week curriculum, which is available to anyone in the company – 80 have signed up so far – themes related to data science are covered with a view to demystify topics such as machine learning and AI.

“We thought we would maybe get 20 people to sign up for this, but ended up with a lot more staff showing interest and we actually now have a waiting list of people who want to join,” says Civil.

“I think that was a recognition among our people of the importance of getting on board in our data journey, because they recognised that it’s so important to the future of the organisation.”

A key learning point for Civil from the evolution of Lloyd’s efforts around innovation so far is that “balancing and blending” messages around technical and change management with business values is the key to success.

“Avoid showing people complicated equations, using baffling acronyms and introducing new tech without engaging the impacted users,” he says. “Show them the business value of new tools in an engaging way, demystify the language and the tech. Deliver the message in a way that people want to be a part of it.”

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