Q&A with Ambiental, global flood data provider

by Jen Smoldt on January 25, 2018


If you don’t know Ambiental, now’s a good time to get familiar with this global flood data provider that specializes in analyzing flood risk and modeling flood hazard. They’ve got a strong track record of increasing the precision of pricing and loss estimation for insurers and reinsurers. Now that their data has been integrated into SpatialKey, we thought it’s a good time to catch up with Evan Shallcross, Technical Manager at Ambiental, who had this to say about underwriting flood risk, progressive flood models, flood maps, and more. 

What's your ‘data story’?

We're data junkies! Fifteen years ago at Cambridge University some of the world’s brightest flood scientists, applied mathematicians, and algorithm specialists collaborated to create Ambiental. Now we work closely with insurers and reinsurers to provide accurate, high-precision flood data, often customized to fit specific underwriting and business workflows.

What’s your market share?

This is variable depending on which territory, but where we operate, somewhere between 35% and 75% of property insurance GWP is written using Ambiental data.

How and why is your data different?

  1. Data science: We’re constantly evolving our datasets, from hydrological and ground conditions to building vulnerability information. And, we’re updating and capturing flood defences as well as enhancing the base digital terrain models (DTM) to light detection and ranging (LiDAR).
  2. Government/regulatory: Our work with government bodies, like Flood Re, gives us unique insight into how regulations may be implemented, new approaches to employ, and how to provide better data and data architecture to accelerate adoption.
  3. Customization: Our datasets can be tailored to reflect the type, level, and additional analysis clients need, which significantly improves underwriting speed and effectiveness.

What kind of results can insurers expect from your data?

A 15-30% reduction in flood claims is typical following adoption of our data. And, about 95% accuracy in predicting claims.*

Ah, innovation… how are you innovating in your space?

We're improving the power of our models through areas such as machine learning as well as using satellite data and remote sensing for dynamic flood forecasts, rainfall predictions, storm surge models, and more.

How is your solution helping underwriters specifically?

Together with SpatialKey, we can enhance a business’ approach to property-level underwriting, from aligning risk bandings with underwriting strategies to giving more granularity and better predictive data—all the way through to the production of custom risk scores aligned to an insurer’s risk appetite. We’ve also worked with SpatialKey to create a matrix that can be used by any insured to understand their view of risk.    

"SpatialKey contextualizes our data in a way that enables insurers to identify opportunities that might otherwise be seen as prohibitive." -Evan Shallcross, Technical Manager, Ambiental

How does your data address evolving flood risk related to climate change?

A rapidly changing climate means there’s no room for complacency with flood risk. Extreme and unprecedented events allow us to validate our models and make adjustments where needed. Having the most up-to-date data is critical with flood risk. And, we’re working with SpatialKey to ensure the most current and accurate flood models are always available for clients to access.

In what way does SpatialKey empower your data to provide insurers with even greater insights?

Insurers can analyze multiple sources of risk simultaneously by using our data in conjunction with other peril datasets, enabling more effective underwriting and exposure management. Flood is one of the most complex perils to model, so understanding uncertainties within and between datasets is key.  

What can we look forward to from Ambiental?

Given that flood risk could significantly increase, we’re working with climate models to build new “future-focused” flood maps which will help insurers get ahead of the climate change curve and create longer-term strategies.

And just for fun…if your company was human, who would it be like?

We’d be like Doctor Who, always solving problems. He has a razor sharp intellect with insight and knowledge of past, present, and future hazards.

If your company was a superhero, which one would it be?  

Aquaman. Like us, he moves through water at tremendous speeds and gets bonus points on land with his superhuman strength and enhanced senses.

If your company had a theme song, what would it be?  

“The Flood” by Take That...what else?


*Based on an independent test carried out by a major broker.

Topics: flood data, Flood risk, flood risk assessment

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