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Insurers urged to leverage data instead of drowning in it

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SINGAPORE — Insurers need to stop “annoying” their customers by asking them redundant questions in insurance applications and make better use of the huge amount of data that is publicly available as they underwrite commercial risks, said Brian Duperreault, chairman and CEO of Hamilton Insurance Group Ltd. in Bermuda.

By leveraging the data, insurers can reduce the expense of underwriting risks, he said during a session at the Global Insurance Forum in Singapore on Monday.

In a session on industry innovation and transformation at the conference, which is organized by the International Insurance Society, Mr. Duperreault said he would like to see insurers and brokers adjust their focus.

“What I'd like to see is us stop annoying the customer. We ask them lots of ridiculous questions that we already know the answer to because it's out there in the digital space,” he said.

For example, policyholders' track records with calls to emergency services is readily available, Mr. Duperreault said. “It's all out there, so why are asking them? We've got to take the ridiculous amount of expense that we have in our business out.”

Brokers, too, should change their approach to focus less on collecting data, because it is not their core strength, he said. “Advise the customer — that's what you should be getting paid for, not this mindless work.”

Insurers have the opportunity to make much better use of data, but it will require a change in mindset, said Chris Wei, executive chairman of Aviva Asia and global chairman of Aviva Digital, units of London-based insurer Aviva P.L.C.

For hundreds of years, insurers have made money by “tweaking pricing” in the belief that they know more about their business than anyone else, he said.

“We've got to rethink that fundamentally, and I think the industry is way behind in realizing that there's a lot more data out there,” Mr. Wei said.

David Fried, CEO of emerging markets at Sydney-based insurer QBE Group Ltd., agreed that making better use of data can help insurers transform their business.

At QBE, for example, the insurer writes third-party auto insurance in Columbia through thousands of agency outlets, he said.

“As you can imagine, there are fraud issues, other claims management issues. We were able to put this into our center of excellence for data and analyze the data and understand the trends as they are developing so we are no longer reactive but proactive. We are able then to price product, shut locations if necessary and remediate as required,” Mr. Fried said.