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Guest blog: big data and the digital revolution

Andrew Brem, Chief Digital Officer, Aviva Andrew Brem, Chief Digital Officer, Aviva

Think of a workplace 50 or 100 years ago. You might have seen pictures of our ancestors at work. Telephones are the great technological breakthrough. Women - and there are very few of them – are all working as typists. Everywhere you look there are huge cabinets, containing file after file after file of data, accessed by huge systems of index cards.

That’s certainly true of Aviva’s ancestor companies. We spent a huge amount of time and money on collecting and storing data, because we have always been a data driven industry. Using data well means we can assess risk, price and underwrite, and it means we can serve our customers with a fair price based on the data available to us.

We don’t just have the data, we can use technology in far more sophisticated ways to better understand risk and better understand our customers.

But in those dusty offices of the past most of our effort was on just storing and retrieving data. We did not have the wherewithal to maximise its potential. Now we do.

The difference now is the digital revolution and we’ve got to be revolutionaries. We don’t just have the data, we can use technology in far more sophisticated ways to better understand risk and better understand our customers, what they need, and how we can deliver it.

But as an industry as a whole we’ve come late to that revolution. Other industries, not least in financial services, are way ahead of us. We are a world away from making the most of the potential of digital.

The size of the prize is almost beyond calculation, and those who don’t seize it aren’t going to be in business for very much longer. Take these statistics: by 2020 each person is going to have around 27 4G and 5G connected devices. By 2030 traffic on UK mobile networks is going to increase by 22 times. We live in a digital age, a digital marketplace, and digital is how our customers want us to serve them.

That’s why one of Aviva’s core strategic goals is to put digital first. It’s why we’re investing to make the most of digital and make the most of data, because it’s what will produce the best returns. We can use digital data to personalise products and price them more accurately, as we’ve done with our AvivaDrive app, which allows drivers to test and monitor how safely they drive and make them save money on their car insurance. As a composite insurer we can use data to offer customers products that meet their needs right across insurance and asset management, and provide easy access to them and their policies through our MyAviva app.

Cyber attacks already cost between $300 billion and $1 trillion each year.

That equals good business for us and lower costs as well as simplicity, convenience and quality for our customers. We’ve set up a Digital Garage in London, where our best and most innovative ideas can be brought to market as quickly and effectively as possible. You only have to step through the door to know that this is the future. You can feel the buzz and can see creativity and innovation in action. Everything is focused on speedy execution, being simple, direct and we get customers in to tell us straight whether we’re on the right lines. In fact, we like it so much we are launching a second Garage in Singapore – a tech savvy market where we can make some real headway and which will act as a hub to roll out digital products and services across the region.

Digital and data does however create risks: not being cyber secure can deliver a near fatal blow to an organisation’s reputation and to the ability to do business with other businesses and, crucially, with customers. Cyber attacks already cost between $300 billion and $1 trillion each year.

But with that risk comes opportunities. We’ve recently launched our first cyber cover for small to mid-market businesses so that businesses have an affordable way to protect themselves and get speedy access to expert advice if they suffer a data loss or breach. This could be anything from a loss of customer data to making sure staff, suppliers and customers are kept in the loop on risk and how you’re sorting it out.

That’s just one new product, but this is a whole new world, and a brave new world at that. It’s up to us to take its opportunities.

Andrew Brem, Aviva's Chief Digital Officer is speaking at the ABI’s Data Conference in London on 9 September 2015.

Last updated 29/06/2016