March 20, 2014

Analytics may be a technology discipline on the surface, but the best insurance data scientists require crucial interpersonal skills as well. That's according to Chubb chief analytics technology officer Upendra Belhe, who gave the first presentation of the 2014 Analytics for Insurance USA conference in Chicago March 19.

Because the discipline is still fairly new, there are many different kinds of people who have some amount of the technical skills in things like predictive modeling, statistics machine learning, text mining or Hadoop, Belhe says.

"If there is a lack of tech skill, you can fill that gap, because you can train that person," he continues. "What we want, though, is a team player. There is going to be an actuary and an underwriter at the same table when the data scientist sits there, and they need to listen very carefully to what's being said around them."

[An interview with Chubb chief innovation officer Jon Bidwell]

Listening and communication skills define the best insurance data scientists, Belhe says, because that person must be able to identify and explain clearly what the business can gain from an analytics project.

"How do you present what you've found? Is it that you take a piece of analysis and throw it into a PowerPoint?" he asks. "Taking an insight, however small it is, and telling that story is a skill that needs to be nurtured."

To do that, the data scientist must possess empathy for the business partners at the same time that they are challenging traditional thinking.

"I think it is very important that your data scientist questions established theory. If they are told: 'Here are the indicators,' when the data scientist pushes back, it's important that business partners take it the right way," Belhe says. "There have been a couple of situations when we came across business individuals that were hard to work with. But we need to understand first before we can be understood."

[Budgets and technology specifications are only part of an technology leader's responsibilities. Managing an IT workforce might be the most challenging aspect of any executive's job. Attend the Humans Aren't Computers: Effective Management Strategies for IT Leaders session at Interop 2014 in Las Vegas, March 31-April 4 to learn new management techniques.
You can also REGISTER FOR INTEROP HERE.]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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, ...