Underwriting Data as an asset at SBI General Insurance

SBI General Insurance takes its data very seriously and why other Indian Enterprises should too

Underwriting Data as an Asset at SBI General Insurance - CIO&Leader

Anthony Devassy, the Chief Data Officer at SBI General Insurance is an extremely busy man. His day starts with the various business functions demanding information and insights which need to turn around with reasonably quick time. While this is the most critical aspect of his job, to make this happen, he has to continuously focus on the data management processes which ensure that quality data is used to deliver accurate insights.

Data, if treated the way assets like Finance, People and Technology are treated, it can be a strategic and competitive differentiator for any organization.


This aspect of his job, Anthony takes very seriously.


“Most organizations in India today talk about the importance of data and call it an Asset. But if you were to have a closer look at their organizational strategy, data, unfortunately, gets no focus despite it being the lever for driving most of the strategic initiatives. However,  a time will come when this will slowly change and organizations will have to stop treating data as a by-product and make it an integral part of their business strategy," says Anthony.


He is right. If you look at the evolution of the role, till 2013, Indian organizations didn’t even have a single CDO. Today, a quick search on LinkedIn returns a handful of names from the Indian banking sector. In the year 2013, research firm Gartner globally recorded more than double the number of Chief Data Officers it counted in 2012. This number has since grown. By 2019, Gartner predicts that more than 90 percent of organizations will appoint a CDO.


Anthony says India is still in a nascent phase with respect to taking a holistic approach to data management and hence, roles like CDO/CAO would take longer to come to prominence.


However, the demand for other Data analytics roles continues to rise.  NASSCOM reports that India currently employs over 90,000 people in various data roles, and the big data analytics segment would require huge manpower over next five years. 


So where exactly is the gap?


The use of data is still very need-based. A lot of organizations don’t make data-based business decisions until there is a dire need for them to do so. As a result, they do not take a proactive approach to analytics.


PWC’s Global Data and Analytics Survey 2016 captures this reality very well.  About two-thirds or 61 percent of 2,100 C-suite leaders, business unit heads, and SVPs interviewed said that they grapple with the biggest choices facing their companies.


Though they are sold on the power of data and analytics to deliver insight into key questions they need to answer, these leaders believe that their organizations still have a lot to do before they become completely data-driven when it comes to making business decisions, the survey says.


At SBI General Insurance, Anthony works closely with business to create revenue generation opportunities, help drive business decisions and deliver value. He reports into the deputy CEO, who has him on his speed dial in case he needs insights on a business problem.


Anthony is also in charge of Analytics. “The real value of analytics can only be realized if the organization has done an exceptional job at managing data and the related processes. Hence, there’s merit in having one person in charge of Data and Analytics,” he says.


Whether it is a risk and audit-related information, customer retention and acquisition data, new business opportunities or revenue generation and regulatory returns, it is my job to provide timely information to various departments,” says Anthony.


For instance, he works with Sales to obtain customer information which helps drive acquisition and retention of customers. He recommends and drives processes which help business enrich the customer data and thereby meet their business objectives. He works very closely with business to drive awareness on the capture of quality data and the negative impacts that poor quality data has on business results.


On his relationship with the CIO at SBI General Insurance, Anthony says that he works closely with the CIO on critical projects and he believes that technology is critical to an organization striving to meet its data strategy.


Although Anthony doesn’t have a big budget for his disposal, he says that he would like to keep it that way. “Data is needed to support business and help them achieve their business targets and hence, for most of the data initiatives, we have a business owner who owns the budget. Data projects are successful if they are driven by a strong business need and where they see value being generated,” he says.


The CDO role in the insurance sector is still in its infancy, but Anthony feels that the prominence of data will only get bigger. Organizations will need to create roles where the person is dedicated to driving value from the vast amounts of data it possesses.


“Data, if treated the way assets like Finance, People and Technology are treated, it can be a strategic and competitive differentiator for any organization,” he says.

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