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Inside Sompo Asia’s agile approach to data analytics

Regional insurer takes agile approach to democratise access to data analytics by creating virtual databases and visualising the insights through Tableau

Like any insurance company, Sompo Asia, which provides non-life property and casualty insurance, has a treasure trove of data from multiple sources that it analyses to make business decisions.

But over time, the company, which acquired other insurance firms to enter new market segments, had to grapple with legacy systems and data quality issues that added to the complexity of its data footprint.

To address these challenges and make data more accessible to business users, Sompo Asia took a different approach in its data analytics journey, said Aditya Tibrewala, its chief technical officer.

While some companies would spend millions of dollars on consulting and data warehouses, Sompo Asia did things differently by taking an agile approach to empower business users who may be struggling to answer questions from their bosses or peers, said Tibrewala.

“We want to make life easy for business units, so they get the insights and take action,” he said.

But rather than ask business users who are not data experts to analyse data on their own, they should look at their business problems and get the data analysts on their teams to share insights with them, he said. “Having marketing teams and chief distribution officers looking at Excel tables and analysing data means they’re not out there selling for the business.”

The company’s IT teams got to work, partnering with analytics teams to create virtual databases from data in core systems before making them available to business users through Tableau dashboards. Tibrewala said this approach works because it is agile, works faster and delivers business outcomes.

Interestingly, Sompo Asia has had Tableau licences since 2015 but didn’t use them until 2019 after a few of years of experimentation, during which Tibrewala showed off Tableau dashboards in management meetings.

“There were many other options available, but what we believed when we looked at Tableau was that it is very easy to use,” he said, highlighting the tool’s visualisation capabilities as particularly useful.

Tableau is also being used as a collaboration tool to reduce the reliance on spreadsheets by providing a single source of truth. Previously, teams would analyse data in spreadsheets during meetings and come up with different insights.

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“The marketing, claims, pricing and product teams, and the CEO, all look at the same dashboards,” said Tibrewala. “The source can be wrong and that’s a different problem, but everybody’s looking at the same information.”

For data analysts who don’t always see the outcome of their work, Tibrewala said the tool has enabled them to appreciate the impact of what they are doing. “It also improves their engagement with the wider organisation and binds everybody together,” he added.

Deploying Tableau has also exposed business users to the world of data analytics. In fact, Tibrewala said someone in the claims department who has a knack for analytics made the transition to become a data analyst after a year-long on-the-job training programme.

To scale up its data analytics efforts, the company is now looking at implementing a data warehouse to put “data into a place where you can access it easily and it is secure” in an effort to ensure proper governance of data and systems that are used to drive analytics insights, he said.

Meanwhile, Sompo Asia has reduced its claims turnaround time for motor vehicle repairs by about 20% in some cases by monitoring the effectiveness of its technology on analytics dashboards.

“Our goal was to start with financial outcomes, such as reducing payouts or inefficiencies,” said Tibrewala. “But we ended up solving the customer turnaround time problem because if you remove operational inefficiencies, it will reduce the cost of managing your business and improve your customer experience.”

Sompo Asia has also improved its loss ratio – a measure of profitability in the insurance business – by about 6%. “From running an unprofitable business, we now run a very profitable business,” said Tibrewala.

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