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Munich Re combines SAS with Hortonworks Hadoop to explore new business

German reinsurance firm Munich Re opts for Hortonworks’ open source Hadoop distribution, in combination with SAS, to deliver its big data analytics programme for new business

Munich Re, a German re-insurance company, has installed a data platform using a Hadoop distribution from Hortonworks and some analytics technology from SAS to modernise its business.

The big data programme is said to be part of a broader digitisation of the company, which is looking to improve its insurance clients’ resilience in the face of cyber, economic and political risks.

The insurer said the data platform, which launched in February 2016, will put its departments in a better position to “explore ideas, develop business fields and further enhance customer service”.

In a statement, Marc Wewers, lead IT Architect for big data and analytics at Munich Re, said: “As a reinsurer with worldwide operations, we have vast data resources at our disposal. We now want to leverage them fully.”

Insurance has been a sector that has used statistical software extensively, often for fraud detection and prevention purposes, and has shown growing interest in big data technologies in recent years.

Some Teradata sponsored research released earlier in 2016 suggested the UK insurance industry would make a priority of big data to make more personalised customer offers in 2016.

But some BearingPoint sponsored research in 2014 suggested the insurance industry had been slow to embrace big data analytics. It found 90% of insurance firms had not yet implemented a company-wide big data strategy and risked being bypassed by new, more agile data aggregators.

Munich Re stated what it called the “close co-operation between SAS and Hortonworks” was a major factor in its technology choice. Other distributions of Hadoop are available, such as those by Cloudera and MapR, and SAS competes with other providers of analytics.

Read more about data analytics in insurance

However, it said “[Hortonworks and SAS’s] relationship encourages complex analytics projects based on Hadoop infrastructure to succeed quickly and effectively”.

The programme turns on the analysis of such semi- and unstructured data as paper documents, emails and video files. Munich Re also said it wants to integrate external data such as weather information or sensor data from vehicles, machinery and other networked devices. 

Munich Re is an existing SAS customer for analytics. For the data processing and storage infrastructure aspect of the programme, the reinsurer opted for a Hortonworks Hadoop cluster.

Wewers said: “We want to take advantage of SAS Analytics while making the best use of a Hadoop cluster with its open source tools. As a team, SAS and Hortonworks delivered exactly what we needed.”

Since February, more than 200 analytical questions have been implemented. The system currently has 500 users, and the firm plans to expand usage.

Wolfgang Hauner, chief data officer at Munich Re, said: “The rapidly rising numbers of users and the large number of analytics projects clearly show that our approach is spot on.”

Read more on Big data analytics