Joseph Milicia, global product leader for business process excellence at Willis Towers Watson, and Tom Beasley, director and technical product lead for DataValidator, predict a paradigm shift towards automation
What technology trends do you expect to shape the insurance risk and capital management sector in 2021?
There are a number of evolving regulations in the actuarial and accounting space, including IFRS 17. When you are talking about compliance, it is rarely considered as a "value add" to your organisation. All of these regulatory changes are likely to drive increased technology spend to achieve improvements in processes and efficiency across the whole enterprise.
Prior to Covid-19, everyone was thinking about automation and transformation of their businesses, but what came to mind was people-intensive, big transformational initiatives. However, there are many smaller and more targeted processes we can automate to deliver immediate quick wins.
Further, we think there will be a move away from on-premise type solutions towards cloud-based systems. We see a paradigm shift where automation is not just about cost reduction, it is an enabler to up your game.
What types of data challenges do insurers face in their processes?
When you are running large-scale actuarial models, there are typically always issues with data on either side of the main modelling engine.
On the "left hand side" of your models, you may get data from lots of different sources, the data may have issues, such as incomplete fields and you will likely need to standardise and ingest the files in the same format.
What we find is a lot of those inputs come from large legacy IT systems and can be very difficult to actually change at the source due to IT restrictions.
Our award-winning DataValidator technology is built by actuaries for actuaries. It allows us to quickly assess data quality and validity, enabling us to make required data changes and apply cleansing routines, so that clients are not relying on IT to make time-consuming updates to the source systems.
This also applies on the "right hand side" of your models as well. You typically put a small amount of data into a model and get a wealth of data out, so again we see lots of companies struggling with the volume of data produced. DataValidator can quickly aggregate and validate this data, ensuring you are left with a smooth, reliable and easily auditable results extraction process.
Does Willis Towers Watson plan to update its DataValidator tool?
We are aiming for our next release of DataValidator (v2.2) in Q2 2021. We have got a few key focus areas for this next version. Firstly, processing speed: we will be making the product significantly faster, enabling clients to deal with greater volumes of data in a more efficient way.
Secondly, we will also be adding further enhancements to the product to assist with automation via our process automation and orchestration tool, Unify.
These updates will be another step towards intelligent automation and will enable Unify to quickly and automatically extract key data quality information from DataValidator and use these quantitative measurements to decide to steer the workflow down a different path without any human intervention.
Why does Willis Towers Watson stand out from the competition?
We think it is our DNA as a consulting firm that really draws us apart. We know the technology and we build great technology.
Ultimately, when you have all three of technology, people and process coming together, then we think that's where you really can take business solutions to the next level and transform insurance.
We have gone further into finance, capital modelling and pricing, with solutions for automatically processing bordereau and in heavily regulated markets like the US where rates must be filed before deployment, we have automated the rate indication process.
For all of these processes, ensuring your data has been very thoroughly checked and validated is key, as without accessible and accurate data, your ability to make strategic decisions is hampered.