A Life­time of Achieve­ment

Digital Insurance - - COVER STORY - By Danni San­tana

As a child, Jayne Olsen gained an early ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the in­sur­ance in­dus­try af­ter wit­ness­ing her home badly ood, thanks to a mal­func­tion­ing pipe. “Our in­sur­ance com­pany played an im­por­tant role in re­build­ing most of the walls and oors,” she says. “It was hard to en­dure the process of re­build­ing, but I was thank­ful my fam­ily did not have to worry about the nan­cial bur­den.”

So when Olsen had the chance to leave man­age­ment con­sul­tant­ing rm Ernst & Young in 2004 for an IT man­age­ment role at Swiss Re, she jumped at the op­por­tu­nity. Now, as the rein­surer’s head of an­a­lyt­ics in North Amer­ica,

Olsen is charged with turn­ing Swiss Re from a data-sup­ported or­ga­ni­za­tion into a data-driven one. Un­der her lead­er­ship, Swiss Re has turned to an “out­side-in” ap­proach to build out its global an­a­lyt­ics strate y: That is, the goal is to iden­tify an­a­lyt­ics best prac­tices from other in­dus­tries that t Swiss Re’s busi­ness model.

Olsen lever­aged a part­ner­ship with IBM to bring in out­side speak­ers to ed­u­cate Swiss Re sta on top­ics im­pact­ing the in­dus­try. Ad­di­tion­ally, she has em­bed­ded in-house data sci­en­tists within di er­ent busi­ness units, serv­ing the same pur­pose.

“Many in­dus­tries have em­braced tech in unique ways and I think there are im­por­tant lessons we can learn from sec­tors like re­tail, for ex­am­ple,” Olsen says. “Our nor­mal pro­cesses might work, but it doesn’t mean it is the best way to do it over time.”

Re­cruit­ing ad­di­tional tal­ent is also on the agenda for Univer­sity of Al­bany grad­u­ate; who cur­rently leads a grow­ing group of 45 data sci­en­tists spread across the rein­surer’s global and U.S. an­a­lyt­ics busi­ness units. Olsen re­cently launched a hir­ing cam­paign in search of in­di­vid­u­als fa­mil­iar with ma­chine learn­ing, nat­u­ral lan­guage pro­cess­ing and cog­ni­tive com­put­ing, she said. Ini­tial re­cruit­ment be­gan in De­cem­ber 2015 with Swiss Re’s Hackathon event in New York City—an ini­tia­tive Olsen spear­headed with IBM.

“It was a rst of its kind event and a great start­ing point to kick-o the re­cruit­ing process,” says Olsen. “Swiss Re is not a brand tech­nol­o­gists may think of. Many were not aware of in­sur­ance in gen­eral as a tech ca­reer.”

The Swiss com­pany has gone on to host two ad­di­tional Hackathon events, in­clud­ing Hack­Zurich in Septem­ber. How­ever, re­cruit­ment is still not over. De­vel­op­ing Swiss Re’s an­a­lyt­ics ca­pa­bil­i­ties is very much a long-term play. Olsen and her col­leagues fre­quently visit uni­ver­si­ties to meet stu­dents grad­u­at­ing in data sci­ence.

Like many other large car­ri­ers, Swiss Re is work­ing to har­ness the in­sur­ance in­dus­try’s large amount of data through pre­dic­tive un­der­writ­ing, pre­dic­tive mod­el­ling the In­ter­net of Things. Olsen and her team also want to prop­erly lever­age emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies; par­tic­u­larly, arti cial in­tel­li­gence and blockchain. The tech­nolo­gies have the po­ten­tial to change the way Swiss Re as­sesses risk and en­gages with cus­tomers and other nan­cial ser­vices com­pa­nies, she says.

Olsen for­mally men­tors two Swiss Re em­ploy­ees, as part of the rein­surer’s di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion (D&I) pro­gram. The net­work is com­prised of 35 D&I Cham­pi­ons—se­nior man­agers from di er­ent busi­ness ar­eas, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany. Upon be­com­ing D&I cham­pion of IT, Olsen helped cre­ate a men­tor­ing net­work within the unit it­self, along­side Swiss Re’s ex­ec­u­tive IT man­age­ment team.

Olsen says that the in­sur­ance in­dus­try has im­proved a lot in the last decade in o er­ing men­tor­ships and growth op­por­tu­ni­ties to a wide range of work­ers.

“Nav­i­gat­ing a ca­reer while balancing fam­ily and per­sonal val­ues is di cult,” she says. But in­sur­ers “now looks at men­tor­ing from a di­ver­sity point of view,” she adds. “Em­ploy­ees come from di er­ent back­grounds and are each di­verse in their own way.”

Jayne Olsen, Head of In­for­ma­tion An­a­lyt­ics Ser­vices-Amer­i­cas, Swiss Re

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