The drive to leverage big data and analytics effectively has never been higher in the insurance industry, and it’s only getting more crucial. As chief data officer of one of the world’s largest insurance companies, Italy’s Generali Group, Elena Rasa is keenly aware of that fact, and is working to create a standard for insurance data excellence not just in Europe, but worldwide as well.
“We realized that the other companies especially in the U.S. were looking into the data science component to make sure they had business decisions based on fact,” she says. “So we decided to set up our own business intelligence and data mining unit.”
Rasa began building the data organization from scratch last year, after receiving the charge from the company’s CEO, Mario Greco. The former head of the P&C business set out to outlined the mission for the soon-to-be-created data science team and established the key performance indicators to measure success.
From there, it was about assembling the right stable of talent.
“To build the data science team, we decided to look inside the Generali group to make sure we had the best people coming aboard from all the countries in the group,” she says. “We had people coming from all over the world. We ran a huge recruiting campaign, with a very tough entrance test, and in the end we were able to recruit about 20 people around the world — all languages in our group were represented.”
Rasa says that learning the breadth of what’s possible with new technologies is a key part of her charge as well. She has surrounded herself with veterans from the technology industry, including people from Microsoft. Like many innovators, Generali takes a fast-fail approach to putting projects into production and evaluating their efficacy, knowing they can always make changes later.