7.4 magnitude earthquake strikes Japan, what's the portfolio impact?

Posted on November 21, 2016 by Sarah Stadler

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Update: After our original publication of this post on Tuesday November 21, 2016 the earthquake was changed from a 6.9 magnitude rating to 7.4, and that change is reflected in our headline and post copy.

Tuesday brought a powerful earthquake just off the western coast of Japan. The Telegraph reports that Japan experiences around 20 percent of the world's earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater, and this quake keeps that statistic strong with a 7.4 magnitude rating.  The quake struck near the  2011 site that caused a massive tsunami, setting off the worst nuclear crisis the world had seen since Chernobyl. With a quake as strong as today’s the potential for a devastating tsunami is a relevant and rising concern for citizens and insurers alike.

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Using SpatialKey, we began an immediate analysis of the quake to help insurers visualize where the it struck, and what potential damage it could cause if they compared it to their own insured locations. This footprint shows us the epicenter of the quake and the impact along the coast. The sample data set we used shows nearly 2,000 locations with the potential for moderate or strong impact from the quake. We also see the total for policy exposed limit in the upper right corner, an important metric many of our users reference when assessing portfolio impact. While this view doesn’t take into account the tsunami that could occur, it offers a telling image of what can be expected in way of claims coming in after the storm.

A few other things insurers can consider as the event plays out:

  • Property damage is uncertain so far, but the areas experiencing greatest ground shaking are coastal cities between Iwaki and Sendai, as well as inland to Fukushima.
  • The greatest concern is the potential for tsunami damage, especially given the severity of the 2011 tsunami and the resulting damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. While tsunami warnings are in effect for Japan, which is expecting a wave of 3-10 feet, there is no tsunami danger for the US West Coast.
  • Coastal residents in Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures are on alert, and evacuation to higher ground is recommended until after the tsunami has passed.

We’re here to help. Reach out today to assess your own portfolio against Japan’s earthquake to empower your claims response.

 

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How can 2016 risk inform your 2017 strategy?

Posted on November 21, 2016 by Sarah Stadler

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2016 has been a year of growth and evolution here at SpatialKey from enhancing our solution for underwriters, actively monitoring catastrophic events that impacted insurers, and bringing on more 3rd-party data partnerships to fuel our solutions. With 2017 on the horizon, now is the time to reflect on the events of 2016 and understand how they can inform your strategy for 2017.

This year's success  

Enhanced data and analytics for underwriters

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We revamped our Underwriting app this year, giving users access to analytics and visualizations for any hazard, such as terror, flood, wind and crime. Underwriters can now access intelligence to inform risk selection, all in one place. Further, our solution offers the flexibility to consume and integrate any 3rd party or in-house content to assist with decision making across the globe.  Uniting data, analytics, and visualizations for underwriters to proactively manage your portfolio at the point of sale is an ongoing effort for SpatialKey, and we’re thrilled to be on the path to making data-driven underwriting a reality for all insurers. Take a look at this webinar recording featuring our terror underwriting solution.

On-time event response for claims
Our clients have been able to stay on top of catastrophe events as they happen by leveraging up-to-date event information from expert sources.  This produces competitive advantage, proactive customer outreach, efficient claims deployment and early intelligence to detect potential claims fraud. Combining timely expert data, visualization, and analytics in one spot offers tangible insight into potential exposure and helps reduce claims costs. Here are some of the notable events we saw this year, and how we visualized them in SpatialKey:

McMurray fire

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Hurricane Matthew  Hurricane_Matthew.png

Louisiana floods 

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European Windstorm app
We also heard the call from many of our European users to make it possible for them to understand severe windstorms (many of you reading might remember the impact windstorm Kyrill had nearly a decade ago), in SpatialKey. We collaborated with our valued partner, Willis Re, to create a purpose-built app for insurers to easily access, visualize and analyze insureds potentially affected by a storm, track windstorms as they happen with forecast data and event footprints, and overlay event footprints onto portfolio data in one intuitive dashboard. 

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More 3rd-party data providers

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At SpatialKey, we are deeply committed to making sure insurers have the right data at their fingertips, so they can easily analyze and visualize risk in their underwriting, exposure management and claims operations. 2016 brought even more expert data providers to SpatialKey’s platform, including HazardHub, EuroTempest, Location, Inc. and Impact Forecasting. Being a data agnostic platform means that insurers can access the most relevant data and models available in the industry, plus make use of their own in-house hazard, exposure and experience data, to make data-driven decisions for their business. To date, we are proud to have been selected as a value-added partner to these expert firms!

Focused on the power of collaboration 

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At SpatialKey, we believe that innovation is delivered with enhanced speed and quality as the result of industry collaboration, allowing each contributor to relentlessly focus in areas of core competence and focus its financial resources.  This collaboration requires involvement from the insurance and the commercial solution provider communities.  Insurers provide the proper business context and focus, while commercial providers work collaboratively to deliver best of breed data and software solutions that link disparate systems and serve up intelligence directly to the business user community.  


Our passionate leaders had a lot to say about that this year. Our CEO, Tom Link, wants to see everyone evolve in how they collaborate in today’s data driven world; our CTO, Brandon Purcell, published an insightful post on the buy vs. build debate and cost of ownership; and our VP of Products, Derek Blum, talked to us about leveraging the right experts to get ahead. Not to be left out, our COO, Bret Stone, authored a white paper on the subject that you can read here.

The point is, we care about working together to move the insurance industry forward, and we’ll always be putting energy and effort into making sure we leverage the experts around us to make SpatialKey solutions even more relevant, insightful and powerful.

 

Enough about the past, let’s talk about the future

Next year is going to be important for how insurers use technology and data. We will continue to see new technologies and practices emerge. Some of which seek to disrupt traditional practices, but almost all of which, will offer greater efficiency, cost savings, and decision support. Here are three ways we think insurers can stay ahead of the game in 2017:

Leverage technology for competitive advantage

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It’s a tough reality to face, but the current soft market may not improve next year.  Additionally, the "low rates" in the soft insurance market pertains to low premium rates. Add to this the fact that interest rates on investments have been particularly low for years and this means that there is even further pressure on underwriting profitability. 2016 saw significant wind, flood and wildfire event losses, and we have no reason to expect that 2017 will be less. InsurTech has been getting a lot of coverage, and the insurance industry is supporting this not only through adoption of new tech, but also injecting capital investment as well to activate new firms and initiatives and their associated innovations. InsurTech solutions have the potential to accelerate the decision making process, enhance data capture and accessibility, and deliver even more expert content.  All leading to efficient, better business. SpatialKey’s ongoing investment in geospatial insurance analytics ensures that insurers can readily access data and technology that support their critical business decisions.

Make rapid, informed and proactive decisions with data

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Data loses its power if it’s difficult to access, or worse yet, impossible to interpret. Insurers need data to work for them, not against them. They will continue to demand solutions that help them understand and analyze data quickly, so they can make informed decisions fast. More now than ever, insurers want to move analytics out of the back office and into the hands of the business with easy to use one-stop solutions that enable self-serve analysis of information.  

To that end, in 2017, SpatialKey will continue to commit 100% of its research and development into delivery of well-designed solutions, focused in the areas of underwriting, exposure management and claims.  Additionally, we will continue to seek collaborative partnerships with cat and non-cat expert content and technology providers to offer our clients even more choice and seamless access to the intelligence they need.  

Differentiate yourself through customer service

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In addition to the seamless integration of third party data, we see improving customer support and insight as a natural part of event response and as a key trend in 2017. Using data to proactively track a hurricane, wildfire, flood or other catastrophes empowers insurers to act quickly and respond to their insureds with speed and efficiency - amplifying their customer service and retention. In a soft market like today’s, there’s nothing more valuable than serving current customers and maintaining that strong business.

Connect now to learn how you can benefit from SpatialKey solutions

Posted in Wildfire, Hurricane, Underwriting, Flood, Data visualization, windstorm, Collaboration, claims, data partner | Leave a reply

SpatialKey® and Location, Inc. give underwriters access to crime risk data, enabling data-driven underwriting decisions and risk-based pricing

Posted on November 15, 2016 by Sarah Stadler

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SpatialKey Inc. (SpatialKey) is pleased to offer its insurance clients access to crime risk data from Location, Inc., a leading provider of U.S. location based analytics. Location, Inc. specializes in providing hyperlocal crime risk data to help underwriters understand, measure and select risk, and calculate premiums with greater accuracy. Exposure managers can also use Location Inc.’s crime risk data to quickly identify and manage adverse portfolio accumulations.

“The Location, Inc. team is excited to be partnering with an innovative geospatial insurance analytics company like SpatialKey,” said Dr. Andrew Schiller, CEO and Founder of Location, Inc. “Making our SecurityGauge® crime risk data available via the SpatialKey platform allows underwriters to visualize and gauge hyperlocal crime risk at the time they are making binding decisions. SpatialKey clients will gain access to another layer of intelligence, enabling their underwriters to more quickly and effectively assess risk and manage exposure.”

Location, Inc. provides a deep-market view of human behavior risks (fire, liability, and theft and vandalism) at the policy address level. Its geospatial behavioral crime indices leverage data collected from over 18,000 authoritative sources and model risk for the entire U.S. landscape, down to an unprecedented 33-foot resolution. This fine-grained assessment of intelligent crime risk data enables insurers to streamline operations by eliminating risks in the early stages of the underwriting process. Insurers can pinpoint pockets of low risk within regions often thought of as high risk and, conversely, locate pockets of high risk within regions often considered low risk, resulting in segmentation and premium advantage over competitors.

“SpatialKey is a valuable risk assessment solution for our underwriting teams,” said RLI Insurance Company President & COO Craig W. Kliethermes. “We rely on sophisticated data to assess and underwrite risks, so having the ability to seamlessly access and analyze Location, Inc.’s crime risk data within SpatialKey will allow us to expand our use of the platform.”

The SpatialKey Underwriting application already gives insurers the expert data and advanced analytics they need to assess other man-made and natural catastrophe perils. Now underwriters and exposure managers can access crime data within the solution to form a more comprehensive view of risk in one convenient platform.

“RLI’s commitment to innovation and reputation for underwriting excellence has made them a great partner to work with in delivering an analytic solution tailored to visualizing and analyzing crime risk,” said Bret Stone, COO, SpatialKey. “We’re excited to take this solution to market with the experts at Location, Inc. as we believe our shared goal to deliver real and actionable insights to the insurance market will help improve risk selection, lower costs and drive results to the bottom line.”

Posted in Press Releases, Data visualization, crime, data partner | Leave a reply

SpatialKey® and HazardHub collaborate to give insurers easier access to hazard data

Posted on November 1, 2016 by Sarah Stadler

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SpatialKey Inc. (SpatialKey) is pleased to offer its insurance clients access to hazard data from HazardHub, a risk data provider. HazardHub specializes in developing proprietary models and processing past event data to help underwriters and exposure managers better understand the probability of future property damage, in order to write profitable business and maintain a strong portfolio.

HazardHub’s expert data is the latest to be seamlessly integrated into SpatialKey’s geospatial analytics solution. The integration complements SpatialKey’s applications designed specifically for insurers, and helps underwriters and exposure managers better visualize risk and understand exposure alongside hazard data. Clients can now easily layer on the HazardHub data from straight-line wind, hail, and tornado to new policy submissions during the risk analysis process and make more informed decisions. Additional hazards from HazardHub, such as wildfire, earthquake and hurricane, will be added to SpatialKey Underwriting and Hazard Analyst applications within the next few months.

HazardHub’s team of experienced data scientists translate, create, and deploy large volumes of geospatial data from past events that are translated into scores that represent future risk potential.

“Working with SpatialKey offers insurers a seamless way to visualize and analyze our data without the heavy lifting of having to integrate it into their own systems,” said Bob Frady, CEO and Founder, HazardHub. “This collaboration offers the marketplace an innovative approach to consuming and understanding hazard data without the need for internal GIS systems or expertise."

With Insurance Journal reporting that catastrophes contributed to increased underwriting losses during the first half of 2016, high-quality hazard data is increasingly valuable to insurers. The partnership between SpatialKey and HazardHub simplifies the process of deriving meaningful insights from hazard data for insurers so they can focus on driving underwriting profits.

“We’re delighted to expand SpatialKey’s hazard data offerings for underwriters and exposure managers in the U.S.,” said Bret Stone, COO, SpatialKey. “With HazardHub data seamlessly integrated within SpatialKey, our clients can easily access and analyze relevant data to better pinpoint new business opportunities in an increasingly competitive market.”

Posted in Wildfire, Press Releases, Hurricane, Partnerships, Earthquake, Hail, tornado, wind | Leave a reply

Willis Re and SpatialKey® collaborate to bring EuroTempest data to insurers

Posted on October 23, 2016 by Sarah Stadler

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New European Windstorm event response app available now

Willis Re, the reinsurance division of Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW), the global advisory, broking and solutions company has collaborated with SpatialKey Inc. to launch a new European Windstorm app. This powerful new event response application integrates data from multiple data sources, including EuroTempest—insurance industry experts in forecasting and reporting on European windstorm activity.

Accessible through a web browser, SpatialKey’s European Windstorm application provides seamless, real-time access to both forecast and historical event data. This enables insurance claims managers to perform geospatial analysis across an entire portfolio of insured properties exposed to a windstorm, making it easier to assess damage and to respond to claims as quickly as possible. Claims teams can also use the app to track windstorms as they happen, accessing forecast data and event footprints to understand their exposure and manage potential claims costs.

“We’re delighted to give our clients access to valuable windstorm data from EuroTempest through the powerful SpatialKey platform,” said Tim Edwards, Head of Europe Catastrophe Analytics, Willis Re International. “Now, Willis Re clients can easily access, visualize, and analyze the windstorm data they need to better respond to catastrophes as they occur.”

Nick Wood, Commercial Director, EuroTempest, said: “We’re pleased to partner with SpatialKey and Willis Re to offer insurers a way to visualize and better utilize our unique windstorm data through SpatialKey’s geospatial insurance analytics platform,” said Wood.

SpatialKey, which established a full-time presence in London earlier this year, is releasing the new app at a time when insured losses due to European windstorms average €3 billion per year, according to PERILS AG. During a typical season, which begins in November and ends in March, an average of six windstorms threaten Europe, affecting insured properties across multiple countries. European Windstorm is the newest event response app from SpatialKey.

“We’re excited to offer our European clients the expert data and advanced analytics they need to proactively prepare for incoming windstorm claims,” said Derek Blum, Vice President, Product Marketing, SpatialKey. “Insurers rely on contextualized expert content to manage their response, and using SpatialKey’s European Windstorm solution simplifies and speeds up that process during events, when every minute counts.”

 

Posted in Press Releases, Data visualization | Leave a reply

Whether you buy or build, getting ahead depends on leveraging the right experts

Posted on October 19, 2016 by Derek Blum

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Expertise can mean many things. Our last post from our CTO Brandon Purcell, How collaborating on technology changes the buy vs. build debate once and for all, touched on this important, but often overlooked part of this equation. Brandon pointed out that to obtain a solution that truly helps you understand your data and identify the insights you need to make decisions, you have to collaborate with experts. I wholeheartedly agree. But, I would add that you have to use the right kind of expert—with the right skill set—to successfully build and deploy a data analytics solution that will be readily adopted by your team.

What do I mean by that statement? Let me elaborate. Just because I understand the metrics used to describe hurricanes doesn’t mean I have the knowledge or the ability to collect wind speed data and construct a footprint. As a result, it makes absolute sense for me to rely on others who are far better equipped to supply this critical data to me. And yet there are insurers out there who instead of leveraging expert data, will attempt to reinvent the wheel or go without.

I suppose it makes sense in some regard. Who else knows what insurers need when it comes to data better than the insurers themselves? After all, insurance is a complex business with each company developing a unique workflow that suits the geography, lines of business, and culture of their operations. (I should know, I’ve been helping to develop products specifically for insurers for the past two decades.)

But with all due respect, I have to say that while you absolutely know insurance, you don’t have the same expertise in technology, especially for managing the increasing amounts of data you need to make decisions every day. Portfolio data, claims data, hazard data—the volume and breadth of data is growing exponentially. To keep up, you have to leverage the experts in data technology.

Let’s consider managing hazard data for a moment. First, you have to set up and manage the licensing agreements to access data from the provider. But once you have the agreement in place, license restrictions may limit how many people on your team can access the data, so you may not be able to easily scale to meet changing volumes or demands. Then, once you have access, you need to make it available to the right people in your organization. With large amounts of hazard or other kinds of data, this is no trivial matter.

Simple choices about how to warehouse the data and in what format to store it can affect the utility your company can get out of it. If the data is hard to use, you may fail to achieve the benefits you were seeking in the first place. In the end, you will have a variety of costs on the front-end just to have access, as well as maintenance costs to manage and update the data. And that’s before you even begin interpreting the data for underwriting decisions or comparing it to your own portfolio data. Not good.

Think about it this way. If you’re a property and casualty writer, and a client asks you for a workers compensation insurance policy, what do you do? You refer them to an underwriter who specializes in workers comp. Why? Because insuring employees for work-related injuries comes with a host of different concerns than insuring a building. Even inside your own area of expertise, you wouldn’t send an underwriter to do a claims adjuster’s job or have a customer service representative analyze your portfolio, would you?

This kind of expertise also applies to the data you need to drive critical decisions every day. Providers specialize in different types of data just like you specialize in different lines of insurance. JBA Risk Management, for example, is known for hazard mapping and catastrophe modeling for flood. Location, Inc., on the other hand, focuses on providing granular data for crime risk. By specializing, each provider can offer more valuable insights within their chosen area of expertise to the benefit of the insurers who partner with them.

As insurance experts, you might think your internal IT department has the design expertise to provide an optimal user experience when making standalone tools. But with what could amount to terabytes of hazard data, which is the complex kind of data we’re really talking about, your solution has to be able to handle geospatial lookups, as well as apply scoring matrices for one or more hazard layers. Connecting those dots isn't something an IT person who doesn’t specialize in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) or design can do.

On the other hand, choosing to work with the experts who specialize in making data easy to digest ensures you get the high-quality, durable solutions—backed by a dedicated Research and Development team—you need to stay ahead of your competitors. In addition, software from these kinds of experts can provide a better user experience while meeting the specific needs of each department and the broader needs of your entire enterprise. 

More importantly, partnering with software experts that can provide an out-of-the-box solution tailored for the insurance workflow means you don’t have to wait to begin making better, more informed decisions. A top-tier insurer recently discovered this for themselves. Because they decided to purchase an insurance analytics solution, they discovered they could have avoided a $1 million claim. If they had decided to try and build something in-house to understand this important data, it likely would have taken far too long, and even worse, may never have been finished in order to uncover the information. So just like that, their decision to collaborate with an outside expert helped them develop a competitive advantage. Not to mention, the software virtually paid for itself.

The truth is that staying on top of all of this is complicated. After all, there’s never been more data with which to inform your decisions. As the number of specialized data providers continues to grow, your internal IT team can’t easily stay on top of bringing together all of the data sources, managing provider license agreements, and performing routine maintenance to keep everything working smoothly. At the same time, managing internal claims and portfolio data is challenging as well. To compete successfully, you need to be able to quickly visualize and understand what all of this information is really telling you so you can act on it...you need insight at your fingertips.

At SpatialKey, we collaborate with data providers to ensure our clients don’t ever have to be bothered with that kind of administrative overhead and costly infrastructure and maintenance. (Just sayin’.) Plus, we’ve already done the due diligence to ensure we’re working with high-quality data providers. That means accessing data is a snap for SpatialKey customers who aspire to write better risk, respond quickly to catastrophes, and build resilient portfolios.

From a purely business perspective, executives and shareholders expect your underwriters, exposure managers, and claims managers to inform their approach and make educated decisions with relevant data. To set your teams up for success—and enable them to focus on the specialty that drives your bottom line—you need them to spend less time finding and managing data and more time interpreting and acting on it. The added bonus? When multiple departments use the same data sources for their decision making, you gain consistent understanding and efficiency across your entire organization.

Today, every insurer understands the importance of being a data-driven enterprise. But to truly achieve this goal, you have to depend on the right partners, ones who specialize in simplifying how you access, interpret, and analyze data, whether it’s your own or from a third party. Being able to quickly access and interpret expert data sources is what will set you apart, and keep your business competitive today and for years to come.

Posted in Insurance, Technology, Collaboration | Leave a reply

Hurricane Matthew by the numbers: What we know so far

Posted on October 12, 2016 by Heather Munro

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Blue skies may be back, but the impact from Hurricane Matthew is still being felt. As your claims team works around the clock managing your event response, information on the extent of the damage is critical to your ability to respond as quickly as possible.

SpatialKey seamlessly integrates the latest event footprints from third-party data providers like KatRisk, Impact Forecasting, and NOAA so you have access to the up-to-date data you need to take action. You’ll be glad to know that footprints for wind, surge and inland flood for Hurricane Matthew from KatRisk are now integrated within SpatialKey and available for use.

Below, we’ve rounded up the latest statistics on the initial losses from Matthew, so you can continue to evaluate the impact of the storm on your book of business.

Risk modelling firm CoreLogic estimates insured losses from Matthew will likely range between $4 and $6 billion. CoreLogic’s initial figure includes losses from wind and storm surge, but not additional flooding, business interruption or building contents. The firm also places the storm’s losses higher than hurricanes Floyd (1999) and David (1979), but well below hurricanes Katrina (2005) and Sandy (2012).

On top of losses from wind and storm surge, early estimates indicate that the evacuations may result in $10 to $15 billion in losses from economic disruption, according to Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler with Enki Research.

Hurricane Matthew was notable for ending a nine-year streak without an Atlantic Basin Category 5 hurricane. The powerful storm, which weakened as it moved from Haiti to the U.S., forced three million people to evacuate. By the time it was over, it had caused coastal erosion, wind damage, and freshwater flooding across five states, including Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. 

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 In North Carolina, rising flood waters threatened more than 1,500 people in need of rescuing. Photo credit: Associated Press

In the Caribbean, Matthew reached Category 5 status with peak gusts up to 166 mph. Haiti was the hardest hit, with more than 1,000 people killed. Now, a resulting cholera outbreak threatens to cause further devastation in an area with history of earthquakes and hurricanes and a low insurance penetration rate.

At the height of the storm, about 2.2 million people—1 million in Florida alone— lost power.

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 Images from NASA showing power outages during Hurricane Matthew. Photo credit: NASA

Peak wind gusts in the U.S. during Matthew ranged from 69 to 107 mph. At press time, the latest U.S. death toll is 33, but that number could go up as flooding continues over the next few days.

Outside of power loss and severe winds, storm surge was another significant concern. Fernandina Beach, Florida experienced a storm surge of 9.88 feet above normal, and Ft. Pulaski, Georgia encountered record tide levels and a storm surge just under eight feet.

While it’s too early to tally Matthew’s total impact in the U.S., insured losses will undoubtedly increase due to flooding, especially in North Carolina where flooded rivers that wash through farms and coal ash sites may spread toxins through miles of waterways.

The American Red Cross is already spearheading recovery efforts for the many people affected by the powerful event. To support this effort or learn more about how you can help, click here.

In the meantime, as your claims adjusters manage the growing number of claims, remember SpatialKey can help. To find out more or to access the latest Hurricane Matthew data and analyze it against your own portfolio in SpatialKey, contact us today.

Posted in Hurricane, Insurance, Flood, Event response | Leave a reply

How collaborating on technology changes the buy vs. build debate once and for all

Posted on October 11, 2016 by Brandon Purcell

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Our last post by CEO Tom Link, It’s time to evolve how you collaborate in a data-driven world, got me thinking about the importance of partnerships. Who you collaborate with to meet your business objectives matters, especially when it comes to technology. Having the right UX, GIS, and R&D resources on your side can mean the difference between amazing usability and software that slows you down.

Prospects often tell me they’re frustrated. Developing software for an industry as complex—and as data driven—as insurance isn’t easy. I’ve been developing software for 18 years. I can tell you that the decision to “buy or build” a solution isn’t as black and white as it sounds.

More than half of IT projects fail, according to CIO Magazine. Lack of product design resources and failing to align outcomes to meet business goals are two reasons why. Solutions never get deployed, don’t meet the business’ requirements, or are so difficult to use that they never get adopted by the users they are supposed to help. No wonder you’re frustrated. I can’t help but think how much time and money have been wasted.

Chances are, you already have some sort of homegrown data analytics system. And you’re considering whether to extend that to add new features or to retire the solution entirely and buy a new one off the shelf. I get why insurers might decide to create their own in-house solution. After all, compared to buying something new, it can seem like there are lower up-front costs. Not to mention that third-party providers haven’t always delivered solutions that keep pace with the demands of your business. Plus, having control over the end product makes it seem more customizable.

But building software is more complicated (and riskier) than it sounds. Especially for something like risk selection analytics for underwriting. These solutions need to support complex hazard models from different kinds of content providers. I've heard from many prospects that building something like that is just “too risky.” That’s because it’s difficult to maintain and scale as new intelligence becomes available in the market.

When it comes to building software, I wish senior management understood a fundamental truth I’ve learned over the years: The true costs go up significantly when you try to do it all on your own.

In-house development costs are still costs

Spending your budget in-house can often feel like you are saving money. After all, you have the hardware, the programmer’s time is already paid for, and you have a trusted team of folks ready to get the job done. Not so fast. If your company is using this type of thinking, you are (or will be) in for a surprise.

Development is much more expensive than you might think. The real dollar amount you need to consider includes: the cost of your development team, the time taken from your business operations during all phases of development, and the opportunity cost of the work not done on another IT project. Of course, this only applies if you have the expertise within your in-house team to build and add the desired features to your existing solution.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen internal projects end up costing way over the estimate. Or worse, the in-house IT team doesn’t have the expertise to deliver the final functionality. The truth is that developing the solution in-house is never a one-and-done cost.

Once it’s built, you still have to budget for maintenance

Maintaining an application and keeping it running is an expensive proposition. Software has bugs and requires a team to address them as they arise. Once a solution is built, the team typically moves on to another project. I’ve even seen cases where the solution’s primary developer leaves the company. With no one dedicated to keeping the solution running smoothly, your users are often stuck having to figure out a workaround and can lose valuable time, which as you know, is another cost to your business.

At the same time, once your users get the solution in their hands, you can bet they’ll ask for new features and capabilities in future releases. Evolving an in-house solution from version to version also requires a dedicated team—and if your internal resources are on to the next IT project, your users are left with a version 1.0 with limited functionality. If they’re using your solution at all.

An annual enterprise software license can cost upwards of $100,000 a year and yes, over ten years, that’s $1 million. But unlike building in-house, included in that price is maintenance, updates, support, and most importantly, a collaborative partner who understands that you want software to solve your headaches, not cause them. You also get the added benefit of having someone outside your company focused solely on meeting your deliverables on time and on budget.

The right partnership delivers returns on your investment

Collaborating with the right partner gives you a competitive edge. (Stay tuned for more on this—our next blog post will cover collaborating with the right experts and partners to get ahead.) When you can get a more advanced solution faster and for less money, you have to ask yourself: Why would you build one on your own? I like to tell clients that building your own solution is a lot like building your own car from scratch, costly and time consuming. Ultimately, it’s faster, easier, and less expensive to buy a car with the features you like than to try to design and build one yourself.

Just as you might choose a car with a back-up camera or built-in Bluetooth interface, you have options today that allow you to adapt and integrate your existing systems across your unique enterprise. Hybrid solutions excel by leveraging the best of your in-house solution and integrating to third party solutions through APIs. In short, you can have the flexibility you want, while lowering long-term costs. You can also be up and running a heck of a lot faster.

Ideally, integrating your core underwriting system with your advanced risk selection solution gives your business the power to act on information quickly. Let’s say you have an in-house underwriting solution that handles your complex rules and workflow. And, you need to modernize and select better risks using risk models for flood, hail, and tornado. Building a system to integrate this third-party data, perform spatial lookups, and maintain the risk data will require a robust and flexible infrastructure and sophisticated geospatial analytics.

That’s, in part, because the amount of data available—from government sources, third-party providers, and various risk models—is growing at an exponential rate.  Managing, manipulating, and sharing this information efficiently across your organization so it’s easy to understand and act on will take advanced systems that can handle the load. While this sounds simple enough to build, it's pretty complex. But by leveraging an outside solution—one that gives you access to data in a workflow tailored to your needs—it’s possible to have the best of both worlds. Really.

Working with software experts, you can also create economies of scale. At SpatialKey, we develop purpose-built solutions that bridge the gap between underwriting, exposure management, and claims, so our clients can easily make decisions from the same baseline of understanding. When you tap into a third-party solution designed specifically for insurance, you and your internal IT team no longer have to reinvent the wheel. And unlike purchasing a car, your solution will just keep getting better and better over time, thanks to seamless updates by your provider.

So the next time you debate the merits of building or buying a solution, consider all of the shades of gray that will enable you to truly meet your business objective. Who you choose to collaborate with has to be part of your discussion. Partnering with software experts, instead of building in-house, is a clear choice that will keep the wheels of your business turning and more than pay for itself in the long run.
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Hurricane Matthew: 3 best practices your claims team can use this weekend

Posted on October 7, 2016 by Heather Munro

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Photo credit: Mark Wilson via Getty Images.

Now that Hurricane Matthew is hovering about 35 miles off Florida’s east coast, it’s time for your claims team to begin estimating potential exposure and jump into action. The category 3 hurricane is expected to pack a punch this weekend with a powerful combination of storm surge flooding, rainfall flooding, and destructive winds impacting areas from northeast Florida to the southern part of North Carolina. Jacksonville, Savannah, and Charleston are expected to be hard hit. While it’s too early to say what will happen, the level of risk is clearly elevated and insurers are on high alert.

At the same time, tropical storm Nicole picked up speed near Bermuda yesterday afternoon, setting a new record. This is the latest time of year that two storms in the North Atlantic Ocean have had winds over 105 mph simultaneously, according to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

As Hurricane Matthew evolves, you can access the current storm path in SpatialKey and adjust your response strategy as needed. Now’s the time to begin gearing up for the surge in claims, informing senior management, stakeholders, and investors about the possible financial impact, and most importantly, staying in touch with and providing relief to your customers.

While you are mobilizing your claims team to handle the region’s most powerful storm in nearly ten years, we’ve put together three best practices to help you proactively prepare for the incoming claims from Hurricane Matthew.

1. Understand your exposure and estimate potential claims costs. Now that it’s clear Matthew will cause flooding and wind damage in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas, it’s critical to get a sense of the storm’s magnitude and its potential impact to your portfolio. As the storm unfolds, be sure to monitor, analyze, and re-analyze the changing impact—SpatialKey makes it easy to understand portfolio impact throughout the storm. Being able to filter by construction type, location, or line of business with a tool like SpatialKey can also help you understand the drivers of loss and how they contribute to storm-related claims in the aggregate.

Screen_Shot_2016-10-07_at_3.27.13_PM-1.pngQuickly determine your exposure and estimate potential claims costs from Hurricane Matthew within SpatialKey.

2. Communicate the potential financial impact to senior management, stakeholders, and investors.
If your book of business is heavily concentrated in Jacksonville, for example, an area that hasn’t been under a hurricane warning for 17 years, your chief underwriting officer will most likely want to see a summary of the impact. With a click of a button, quickly run reports to visualize the Total Insured Value or Exposed Limits in the affected area and share them with your team using the SpatialKey Hurricane Forecasts event response app.

3. Quickly get in touch with affected customers. While many of your customers may have already evacuated, you can still contact those further inland with tips for preparing their properties to weather the storm. By understanding the path and potential impact of the storm, you can proactively reach out to your customers to demonstrate that you're invested in their well-being, making them more likely to renew when the time comes.

While Matthew is your main concern this weekend, there are nearly two months left in the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season. SpatialKey Hurricane Forecasts can help you manage your response for Matthew, Nicole, and any other hurricanes on the horizon. To find out more about how SpatialKey can help, contact us today.

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Category 3 Hurricane Matthew barrels toward Southeastern US: How insurers can act now with confidence

Posted on October 5, 2016 by Heather Munro

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Screen_Shot_2016-10-05_at_3.33.15_PM.pngEasily track Hurricane Matthew’s storm path in SpatialKey.

As the most powerful Atlantic storm since 2007, Hurricane Matthew is the first Category 3 hurricane to make landfall in Haiti in 52 years. Forecasters are predicting Matthew will continue to head north towards Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina starting Thursday evening. Florida and South Carolina have already begun evacuations, as the states prepare for the possibility of significant wind and storm surge damage.

As you know, meteorologists have some sense of what might happen, but weather patterns can change quickly. The hurricane could strengthen or weaken, head out to sea or reverse course and veer inland. Forecasters identify the most likely track of the storm as it evolves, but the uncertainty increases as they project further into the future. The cone of uncertainty, at it’s typically called, captures the fact that we may see changes in speed, size, severity, and direction.

As the storm unfolds, analyzing Hurricane Matthew’s storm track against your own portfolio data will help you quickly prepare for the event.

  1. Access Hurricane Matthew’s current storm path to outline your plan of action. Once you have the storm path, which is provided by NOAA and seamlessly integrated within SpatialKey, you can track the storm as it’s happening and efficiently manage your event response.
  2. Understand your exposure concentration to not only to determine the potential claims costs, but to effectively mobilize your claims team to respond to insureds. To quantify how much is likely to be exposed to hurricane-force winds, you can filter and segment that data based on characteristics, such as wind speed, construction type, or line of business.
  3. Evaluate the path of the storm and run what-if scenarios to understand the potential impact to your portfolio. As the storm shifts, accessing the latest data will help your team respond to senior management and support business operations as quickly as possible.

It’s important to understand that about one-third of the time, the most intense winds and storm surge impacts associated with the storm will veer outside of the cone of uncertainty, according to the National Hurricane Center. All the more reason to stay on alert—and track the storm— as Hurricane Matthew unfolds. Using  SpatialKey’s Hurricane Forecast app can help you turn the cone of uncertainty into decisive action. 

To find out more about accessing the latest Hurricane Matthew data and analyzing it against your own portfolio in SpatialKey, contact us today.

Posted in Hurricane, Event response | Leave a reply