By Aaron Tan
Singapore insurer Great Eastern is doubling down on data analytics in a bid to boost its use of data in corporate decision-making.
In 2020, the general insurance company started a centre of excellence to address not only the use cases of data analytics, but also data governance and data quality, according to Ryan Cheong, managing director of digital for business at Great Eastern.
Cheong said the work of the centre, whose head reports directly to the CEO, used to be under his remit, but a stronger focus was needed to grow the company’s data analytics capabilities, which is a key part of its digital transformation strategy.
“Over the past 18 months, we’ve built up a significant number of dashboards and their usage is quite high,” Cheong said, adding that a decentralised approach was taken to encourage more employees to leverage data in their jobs.
Cheong said the centre has been honing its capabilities in data science, data governance, and more importantly, data engineering, which has become a top priority as the company lacks talent who can “build the plumbing and get the pipe going”.
“The data scientists were a bit frustrated because they got dragged into doing some of the engineering work, but I think we’d get there,” he added.
Cheong said a framework for data quality management and data governance was created, along with a team that looks at training more data stewards who are equipped with tools to ensure data quality and compliance.
To inculcate a data-centric culture, Cheong said employees are encouraged to think about what they want to know, monitor and measure using data analytics before they start building a new digital product.
Cheong said all of those considerations are being baked into product design processes even as employees are given the tools to manage governance, security and privacy requirements.
The use of data analytics in the Asia-Pacific to solve a variety of business problems and other challenges has been growing amid the pandemic.
According to IDC, a technology analyst firm, revenues for big data and analytics solutions in the region hit over $22bn in 2020, with three in four enterprises planning to keep or increase their big data analytics investments this year.
“This is because analytics solutions are essential to enable digital trust and resiliency during the Covid-19 crisis,” said Ritika Srivastava, associate market analyst at IDC Asia/Pacific.
Financial institutions have been one of the keenest adopters of data analytics and will remain so as they look to capitalise on financial, transactional and customer data.
For one thing, Cheong sees a greater role of data analytics in helping Great Eastern navigate its relationships with its agents and customers.
“For the longest time, the relationships have been very linear,” Cheong said, “but we can certainly do more if we can be alongside an agent in a triangular relationship, where the agent is connected with the customer, who is also connected to Great Eastern”.
Cheong noted that the triangular relationship is predicated on the understanding that Great Eastern would not engage a customer without an agent’s knowledge, and “hopefully we also know what the agent is doing for the customer”.
“This connection must be driven on quality conversations,” he added. “And this is where data analytics comes in to help us put the face of the agent into our digital communications.”
That could mean enabling more agents to become digital distributors of “straightforward” insurance products, such as endowment policies, where no life-planning is needed before a purchase, Cheong said.
In such cases, agents could send invitation links to customers who can sign up for those policies online and follow up with those who are unsure about something. “More importantly after the purchase, the agent will continue to service customers on their policies,” Cheong added.
This article was first published in Computer Weekly on 31 May 2021.