Lloyd’s of London’s former CDO discusses her role in insurance

Helen Crooks, the former Lloyd's CDO, discusses her role and why data has become an important asset in the insurance industry.

Helen Crooks is the recent former chief data officer at Lloyd’s of London, the insurance market. Her role spans traditional risk management processes (making sure the organisation maintains its obligations to data management) and ensuring that critical business processes are executed appropriately.

The role is under the financial services conduct regime for senior managers, and it does hold a significant amount of accountability and responsibility at a risk and compliance level.

However, Crooks does not view the position as a hinderance, instead she thinks about the possibilities; “what excites me and interests me about Lloyd’s, the market and speciality insurance is what the art of the possible could be with data as we increasingly operate in a digital world,” she said.

Similar to other CDOs, Crooks uses data to help the business become more efficient by gaining invaluable insights from both customers and internal operations. But, she can’t do it alone.

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Everybody needs to think about data

Deriving business value from a range of datasets is a mammoth task, especially in an institution as large as Lloyd’s of London. The person in charge of utilising the data and promoting the asset’s merits, the CDO, needs help.

“We want everybody to think about data,” explained the former Lloyd’s CDO.

“Not everybody is a data person, but because data is at the heart of everything we do in our business, everybody needs to understand the implications of it, whether that’s from how data is used within financial services or insurance processes to creating the right model to support the insurance processes, or how it’s driving our market understanding and impacting profitability growth.”

In order for an organisation to reap the rewards of an effective data strategy (which includes data management, data capture, data compliance etcetera), everyone needs to understand the implications of having data and how it should be looked after.

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When people think about data, especially at events like Big Data LDN, technology, data science or data practice are the first things that come to mind — this is how modern organisations can enable business processes to become really insightful and drive value through different technical components.

“In every business, but especially in insurance, the information that’s passed around that business to drive the insurance process is critical at every stage,” continued Crooks. “It doesn’t matter if you’re somebody working in technology or if you’re a claims analyst working within the claims function; if you don’t have access to good information about policy or information about reserves, how can you pay out a claim efficiently?”

Her point is that no matter what the role, the employee must understand the data. They must understand the way that data is captured will have an impact on other parts of the business — introducing the issue of data quality.

Data quality is vital to successfully integrating systems, interfacing business processes and gathering insights from data

There are data science tools that can help improve data quality, but in more traditional industries, like the insurance markets, data champions have to start from the beginning.

Crooks explained: “The insurance industry needs better quality data as soon as possible. If you have poor quality data it takes longer to process a claim and to settle it for somebody who might be in real trouble.

“If you can’t have the right quality of information around the risks that you are underwriting against, how do you know what your exposure levels are? How do you know if you’ve got enough sufficient capital in the organisation to support those exposure levels? You need a standardised level of data.”

All this means, organisations — especially the more traditional, legacy-based — need employees to think about their data. Not everyone wants to be a data scientist, but where people are working with data (in most areas of business), they need to able to protect it in line with GDPR, they need to be able to understand the impact of not having good processes in place or implementing a poor robot – “just putting robotics on top of the poor process doesn’t always help with the data,” clarified the former Lloyd’s CDO.

Part of the way we can create the right data culture is to raise awareness — which was part of Crook’s role as CDO, as well.

The regulation challenge to data

In the financial services industry there is a huge amount of regulation coming through around oppression and resilience — being able to ensure that as an organisation, you have looked at your risks and that you are applying a level of adherence and change to your internal processes.

“If you look at risks we manage, a lot of them are mitigated by having the access to the right information at the right time,” said Crooks.

“It’s not just about the business process of placing insurance, there are all kinds of risk, compliance and operational excellence factors that to come into the world of data.”

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The role of the Lloyd’s CDO

Responding to this shifting regulatory landscape, the growing importance of data and the move from the physical to the digital, in Crooks’ role as CDO, she had to look at the risk, the value, the opportunity, the business efficiency and this is all done on a balancing budget; budget versus risk versus opportunity.

“I have to make sure that we don’t just concentrate on having the latest technology offering. It’s not about the tech, it’s about how we, as a business, use the data across multiple parts of our organisation.

“The challenge for Lloyds is that we operate a market. We have to interact and we have to provide the market services to other companies who want to interact.

“We’ve just recently announced the Future at Lloyd’s Blueprint One, our strategy to create the world’s first class, best-in-class, digital marketplace for trading risk. And that will require us to bring information and data together to allow that process to happen in a digital way, as opposed to working off a traditional written contract.”

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...