Technology and Process are Commodities; Data Differentiates

Insurance Panel
Raman Murali , Hamilton Faris, Monique Hesseling and Naveen Sharma from Cognizant talk about the importance of strategically managing and sharing data

“Technology and processes are commoditized, because everyone has access to the same technologies, but data makes your company unique,” said Raman Murali, Vice President of Enterprise Analytics Management at The Chubb Corporation.

Raman made this point during a lively panel discussion on the “State of the Insurance Industry” at the Financial Executive Summit in New York on September 22, 2015, which was hosted by Informatica.

The panel discussion focused on all things data in the insurance industry.



Monique Hesseling, Partner, Strategy Meets Action
Monique Hesseling, Partner, Strategy Meets Action

The moderator, Monique Hesseling, Partner at Strategy Meets Action, is widely acknowledged as an internationally recognized insurance leader with exceptional expertise in the use of data insights and analytics to guide global development and expansion planning.

The panelists included:
Hamilton Faris, Vice President, Chief Data & Analytics Officer of the Data Sciences & Services Group, MetLife
Raman Murali, Vice President of Enterprise Analytics Management, The Chubb Corporation
Naveen Sharma, Practice Head of the EIM-Enterprise Data Management Practice, Cognizant Technology Solutions

“A company’s uniqueness is contained in its data about customers, products, partners, employee. That’s where you have the opportunity to differentiate,” Raman continued in response to the question about what drew him to the world of data.

Question to panelists: “How do you define great data?”
Hamilton responded, “As a business person responsible for analytics, my definition of great data is any and all data I can get access to! There is a cultural divide between the business and IT when it comes to data. Often IT wants us to narrow down our scope to a smaller data set. But the truth is, you don’t know what you don’t know. So, I don’t want to narrow down my data set because I don’t want to lose the context.”

Raman agreed with this statement, “Grab it all. I will profile it and figure out what I can and can’t use.”

Naveen chimed in with this observation, “I see a competitive moat that’s formed between digital native companies like Google, Uber, AirBnB, whose businesses run purely on data vs. traditional businesses, who are only now starting to get serious about data. The digital natives that are successful have grown up with a data-driven mentality, they view data as an asset, they’re investing in the ability to strategically and securely manage and share data throughout the company. If you can pull your data together, improve the quality, and use it right, you’ll have great data to support your business reliably. Great data can provide predictability. Great data can drive a business shift to the top and bottom line.”

Question to panelists: “How data-driven is your business?”

Hamilton Faris, Chief Data & Analytics Officer, MetLife
Hamilton Faris, Chief Data & Analytics Officer, MetLife

Hamilton answered, “Data and analytics are foundational to our business. It’s the lifeblood of our customer-centricity strategy. We aim our efforts on three key priorities: driving top line growth and margin expansion, making predictions about our business, and streamlining our processes for efficiency gains.”

“Operational efficiency never goes out of style, you can always improve the way you do things by improving the quality of your data and changing the way information flows,” shared Naveen. “But I’ve noticed a renewed interest in customer centricity initiatives. Companies are funding investments in data infrastructure to enable customer centricity because the application and data landscape just got a lot more complicated. It’s complicating people’s abilities to get a customer 360 view across product lines, regions, channels and touch points and that’s holding them back.”

“I agree,” added Hamilton, “we need great customer data to support our customer-centricity strategy. We need great customer data to understand the customer journey and how they interact with our company. We need to know our customer’s life events and offer our help when they may need us. And we need to understand customer relationships, within the household and outside the household, business relationships and influencer relationships to anticipate customer needs.”

Raman stated that Chubb started their Client 360 Strategy a few years ago. But a consistent single customer view across the different lines of business was not easy to achieve. “One of our business goals is to deliver superior claims service. We’re always trying to figure out how we can serve our clients better and also better manage our costs. To do this, we needed to make a foundational investment in data.”

“Now we have a data management strategy around client,” continued Raman. We’re using Informatica to strategically and securely integrate and manage our data. Specifically, we’re bridging our data silos and improving the quality of client information, and using that great data to fuel key applications used by our employees. We’re also using Informatica to strategically manage our vendor data and their locations. This enables our employees to make better recommendations on the vendors that will be a good fit for our client’s needs and location.”

Question to panelists: “What are your biggest data challenges?”

Raman Murali, Vice President, Enterprise Analytics Management, The Chubb Corporation
Raman Murali, Vice President, Enterprise Analytics Management, The Chubb Corporation

Raman responded, “One of our biggest challenges as we were building out our enterprise analytics capability was getting access to our data. We had data silos. This lead to analytics silos as well. We needed to get all of our data into one place. Data quality and master data management are critical to our data management foundation and enabling enterprise analytics.”

“The #1 problem we had was a trust issue,” shared Hamilton. “Now we use Informatica as an information management hub to facilitate the movement of trusted data. We have about 70 applications that contain valuable customer information. We needed to bridge those information silos and bring it into a central location where we could improve the quality of the data so we could trust that it was accurate, complete and consistent across our key applications. This was a foundational investment we need to gain a 360 customer view across the business.”

This investment in customer data wasn’t limited to analytical insights to drive decisions. Hamilton continued, “We also want to use trustworthy data for regulatory compliance and to boost marketing effectiveness. The 2nd data challenge we’re facing is the explosion of digital data, big data, social media data and the complexity of linking it to our trusted customer profiles.”

Question to panelists: “What advice do you have for engaging the business?”

Naveen Sharma, Practice Head, EIM - Enterprise Data Management, Cognizant Technology Solutions
Naveen Sharma, Practice Head, EIM – Enterprise Data Management, Cognizant Technology Solutions

Naveen stated that the business owns the data, while IT facilitates the management of it. “IT needs to show results of investments in data management and not explain how things work. My advice to IT is engage with the business one-on-one. Understand the metrics that matter and then focus on what can be done to the data that will help achieve those metrics. Then, share the potential impact with the executive who has a vested interest in those metrics. You need a strong business sponsor for your data management initiatives to be successful.”

Raman said that you need to understand your roles and IT needs to have empathy for the business. “The business is generating data and consuming it as well. IT just takes care of the data.” Quoting a business executive’s remark, Raman talked about how “the business needs to know the time, not how the watch works.” Sometimes IT can get technical.” Keep it simple and speak the language of the business as much as possible.

Hamilton recommended first understanding the business figure out where you can drive value and how it can be realized. “When talking with your business counterparts, highlight opportunities where you can bring value to the business. Figure out how you can articulate the value of data management to the topline, bottom line and effectiveness. Tell the business how data management turns data into something valuable.”

Question to panelists: “Any career advice for data management practitioners?”
Raman recommended asking ‘so what’? “Try to understand the real business need. What are we trying to solve. Don’t get too carried away with the next new thing.”

“My favorite question is ‘Why not?’” said Naveen. “What’s stopping us from moving forward.”

Hamilton’s advice: “Be curious and be bold. Be brave enough to ask tough questions without putting people on the spot. Everyone has something you can connect with. Work together. You all have the same mission. Engage with others. You need to partner to be successful.”

Question to panelists: What do you want the attendees to take away from this discussion?
“Data is the key to business. And data is not just IT’s responsibility. That’s yesterday’s thinking,” Naveen pointed out. “Business and IT need to focus on data together to drive the business forward.”

Raman concluded with, “IT needs to continually keep the business engaged. Understand the data value chain – identify the data that’s critical to your business, which makes your business unique and strategically manage it. But if you don’t have anybody taking accountability for your data, you’ll be spinning your wheels.”

Hamilton summarized, “You have to have fun. Enjoy what you’re doing. You have to enjoy working with data and finding value. Today, everyone wants data and analytics. If you have the right mindset and approach, everyone will gravitate towards you.”

Upcoming Events

If you enjoyed the insights shared in this panel discussion, join us for an upcoming Informatica event. I will be speaking at both events, so please reach out with questions. Click on the links to learn more.

Informatica World Tour New York, December 8, 2015

  • Terri Mikol,Director, Data Governance Office, UPMC
  • Jeff Semonovich, Senior VP Managing Director – Enterprise Services, First Niagara Financial Group
  • BJ Fesq, Chief Architect and Chief Data Officer, CIT Group
  • Larry Keyser, Solution Architect/Technical Lead, United Technologies

Informatica World Tour Chicago, December 9, 2015

  • Mike Hart, VP, Director of Data Management & Technology Americas Research, JLL
  • Chris Brummet, Data Architect Chicago Cubs
  • Faisal Sami, Enterprise Architect, Grant Thornton
  • Scott Johnson, ETL Architect, CHE Trinity Health
  • Jer Thorp, Co-Founder, Office for Creative Research