RESEARCH REPORT

In brief

In brief

  • Insurance has long been data-rich, but it is slower than other industries to derive value from its data. The CFO is poised to change this.
  • For insurers, opportunities arise in making use of all available data, whether internal or external (e.g., wearables or home security devices).
  • Specialized skills are key to capturing meaning from this wealth of data, posing a talent challenge for insurance CFOs.


Insurance chief financial officers (CFOs) face unique challenges, as noted in our report, CFO Reimagined. For one, they should be more dynamic in leveraging data they’ve possessed for some time. But the technology that can help them is only beginning to yield the promised return.

Can insurance CFOs harness data and lead their businesses to greater profitability?

Tapping new data, with new tech

Insurance CFOs have started by leading the charge to digitalize, eagerly embracing new tools. They are deploying artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and blockchain, within their own functions and organization-wide. They are also taking ownership of data across the enterprise, identifying unrealized value and driving governance around use.

"…we sit on mountains of data. We've never before used that data to our advantage, …. That has now changed, and we can more effectively analyze data to get a much better understanding of what's going on out there."

– Corporate finance director at a large, US-based mutual insurance firm

Another source of value for insurers is new external data available to them. Internal data can now be combined with that gleaned from external sources such as wearables, internet of things (IoT) devices, application programming interfaces and telematics “black boxes.” Capturing this wealth of information can make insurers uniquely responsive to customer needs. The challenge, though, lies in governance. How much of this data is unstructured, in unfamiliar formats or of uncertain veracity?

CFOs are up to this task. A third of CFOs respondents to our study believe it’s finance’s job to establish preferred practices for combining data sets. And that number may rise as more insurers pull in more external data.

An insurance workforce with analytics experience and know-how

The data avalanche can be overwhelming without data scientists and other skilled specialists on board. But insurance CFOs report they are struggling to recruit and retain the talent they need. Often, the best-skilled data technicians want to work for more “glamorous” firms, such as Google, Inc. or Amazon.com, Inc.

Other options are available, and insurance CFOs are considering them.

Here are initial steps insurance CFOs are pursuing to boost their data and analytics skills.

52%

Are creating a collaborative, agile environment that provides connectivity and cross-departmental sharing of ideas and insights.

46%

Are empowering the existing workforce to develop new skills.

27%

Are engaging with the tech ecosystem via accelerators and other means.

23%

Are acquiring startups.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies can fill some of the talent gap, as can collaboration and cross-department agility. CFOs are already working to break down siloes and facilitate cross-departmental work. Bringing in external consultants also can help fill talent gaps while longer-term strategies—such as reskilling key workers or acquisition—are pursued.

Moving forward

Insurance CFOs can begin now to adopt a more dynamic, forward-thinking approach. They can take four steps to drive the business forward.

Create a powerful case for emerging technologies.

If CFOs can tap the potential of new technology and articulate its benefits, that potential should rapidly translate into momentum and scale.

Leap-frog, don’t dabble.

For new tech such as AI and machine learning to fulfill their promise, the CFO should be willing to experiment and adapt quickly to change.

Collaborate for data.

Finance can derive insights from more complete data, but it requires clear connection with business leads and alignment with strategic direction.

Rethink the skills challenge.

To compete with other industries for key skills, insurance CFOs should consider how they can inspire a wider range of talent to work with insurers.

“[Accenture’s CFO research] should be an inspiration for carriers that are still deciding on the best course to take,” said Niccolo Bergamini, Accenture’s Global Finance and Risk lead for insurance. “The sector won’t wait: It’s time to seize the future today.”

Learn how your finance function can help seize your insurance firm’s future.

About the Authors

Steve Culp

Senior Managing Director – CFO and Enterprise Value


Niccolo Bergamini

Senior Managing Director – Finance and Risk Insurance Lead​


Ambrose Shannon

Managing Director – Finance and Accounting Global Lead


Haralds Robeznieks

Senior Principal – Accenture Research

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