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Interview: MetLife Gets the Big Data Band Together

The insurer ran an event for its analytics-focused employees and technology partners to build a community around data practices.

MetLife is emerging as a leader among life insurers for its use big data and analytics capabilities to modernize the life insurance customer acquisition and servicing process. The company's latest initiative was a two-day conference for about 100 employees and technology partners, from several different countries and subsidiaries, where they met in workshops and discussed the myriad ways advanced data and analytics can improve the company's standing among consumers.

"We have a lot of data mining and data scientist, type professionals but many are distributed not just in North America, but in South America, Tokyo, London, Dubai and elsewhere because we grew through expansion," says Peter Johnson, MetLife's VP of enterprise data services and application services. "As we are stepping into the next generation of tech analytics and types of data, we need to build a community of practice."

Attendees were cross-functional, Johnson says, and workshop teams often included members from different companies, geographies, and parts of the business. The goal was to marry business expertise with analytics proficiency so each side better understood their value in the process.

[25% want to close life insurance sales online, LIMRA says]

"We've got tech people, quantitative data analyst types, as well as business stakeholders who have ideas around product development and customer service," he says. "That diversity is really how you get those 'A-Ha' moments. Being able to understand how to do the analytics and the math is one thing, understanding how it's really going to interact with your business is a whole other game."

Vendor attendees included IBM, Informatica, and Cognizant, which are already MetLife partners, as well as some other potential partners who operate in emerging corners of big data. A major goal for MetLife, Johnson says, is to do a better job of leveraging their existing data on their vast customer base in order to provide better service.

[MetLife Chief Digital Officer Manish Bhatt is one of Insurance & Technology's Elite 8 insurance technology executives this year! Come hear from him and other current and past honorees at our Elite 8 Forum, November 7 in New York. For more information, click here.]

"We have 90 million customers, and a lot of deep data on them, but it is unstructured stuff like web data, phone dialogs and applications," he says. "But the data realm is about understanding -- taking advantage of that information to better understand where a customer is in terms of their life events. We need to have very long term relationships with our customers and data is a key."

The two-day event, which ended today, also included some small competitions to elucidate potential new innovations. Johnson says it's likely that MetLife will rotate these events to different locations around the world in order to keep the dialog going.

"The real goal is to get people to get to know each other, especially the people from smaller companies," he says. "We'll have an online community that will form as a result of this event but people do need to have physical connections every once in a while. I hope this will become an annual event.

[More from InformationWeek: MetLife Hosts Big Data Party]

Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio

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Greg MacSweeney
Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/17/2013 | 12:10:51 PM
re: Interview: MetLife Gets the Big Data Band Together
These types of internal working group conferences are becoming more popular. Financial companies are realizing that they have a wealth of information and ideas that come from their own employees. They don't have to go out and hire a vendor or a consultant. Employees are more than happy to contribute ideas to their company. It definitely helps with employee engagement. It will be interesting to see which ideas make it into the production process.
Nathan Golia
Nathan Golia,
User Rank: Author
10/17/2013 | 12:20:31 AM
re: Interview: MetLife Gets the Big Data Band Together
One thing that was definitely noticeable, too, was how excited Johnson was for this initiative. I caught him at the end of day 1 and he was practically breathless. With that kind of inspired leadership, I predict that their goal of a unified, innovative data organization will be realized G㢠and maybe it won't be a startup that shakes up life insurance after all.
User Rank: Author
10/16/2013 | 6:46:29 PM
re: Interview: MetLife Gets the Big Data Band Together
It's great to see a company like MetLife putting some weight behind the concepts of collaboration -- really going beyond the rhetoric. By convening and serving this community, they also can set the agenda & position themselves as a leader in the analytics/big data space, internally and externally. Some really interesting things are coming out of MetLife around analytics & innovative use of data, clearly they understand it's not just implementing a system, or even hiring top talent, but also creating a new kind of culture.
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