Making it easy to access and use the right data
When AXIS Capital needed faster access to better information, we helped put reliable data at its employees’ fingertips.
During a recent meeting with another company, AXIS Capital’s senior executives pulled out their iPads to conduct some quick, ad-hoc analysis on their Tableau dashboards. Their colleagues from the other company couldn’t respond with their own numbers. Instead, they needed their IT team to run additional reports and distillation—a process that took days.
“The ability I have to get real-time information, with the power that Tableau offers to filter that information anywhere there’s an Internet connection, is differentiable—and that was proven in that meeting,” says Stephen Lord, Global CTO and Reinsurance CIO at AXIS Capital.
It was a memorable moment that signified how far the company’s IT organization had come since Lord joined AXIS Capital in 2012.
At that time, AXIS’s reinsurance division was hampered by a deluge of data stored across multiple systems. It was costing employees a massive amount of time reconciling different results—often at the last minute. “They’d need executive-level information for our corporate leaders and would get different results from different sources,” Lord explains.
Some major transformations at AXIS Reinsurance further escalated the need for fast access to better data. The company had just gone through a reorganization, and in parallel, implemented a new, reinsurance administration and accounting system. The new platform opened up an opportunity to access a whole new world of information, but the business didn’t know how to capitalize on it, Lord says.
“My goal was to expose the information in the most usable way possible”
Lord was tasked with re-envisioning the organization’s data architecture and developing a data strategy that would lead AXIS’s reinsurance division into the future. His plan: build a segment-level data mart and populate it with information domains, starting with financial information. Next, leverage Tableau—which was already being used by the reserve actuaries at AXIS Reinsurance—and render that solution enterprise-grade.
“My goal was to expose the information in the most usable way possible, and, simultaneously, have it come from a single authoritative source so that no matter who was accessing it and how they were designing their report or visualization, they were using the same source of information—the only difference would be how they filtered it,” says Lord.
Richer insights ahead
Lord turned to Slalom—a partner he’d worked with in the past—to begin building out his vision for the reinsurance data mart. “We share a lot of DNA, in terms of our business approach to IT,” says Lord.
The Slalom team started by reverse engineering the data extracts that were being used to generate the company’s existing Tableau dashboards. “The actuaries have reinsurance data cubes that they were maintaining and managing to build their own Tableau reports. We helped them retain their existing reporting capabilities; deployed their reports to a centralized server for easier access; and standardized the data mart so the reports accurately reflect the transactions in the back-end applications,” says Steven Pickens, a client service partner at Slalom who worked on the project.
One-stop shop for data
When the project was complete, AXIS Reinsurance had a new set of optimized and consistent Tableau management dashboards populated with rich financial data from its contract administration platform. “It’s a one-stop shop: you can go to the website, visualize all the key financial information, slice and dice it to investigate, and accelerate actuary or underwriting work,” says Pickens.
The solution works for every class of user—from senior executives who want to perform quick, ad-hoc analysis to power underwriters who want to build their own visualizations. “Power users with a greater appetite for this information can access a semantic layer of the reinsurance data mart that they can play with to their heart’s content,” says Lord.
“Data quality improves when people see how that data is being used”
Tableau has lowered the barrier to AXIS’s employees seeing their data. Before the data mart, information was walled off in the world of actuaries, but now underwriters are empowered with their own data. The underwriters feel equipped to participate in managerial discussions and share their plans for any given cedent or broker, Lord says.
“Data quality improves when people see how that data is being used. Lowering that barrier to information access really improved the operation of everything from our reinsurance underwriting to IT to all other functions,” says Lord.
The new corporate standard
The reinsurance data mart has been adopted across the enterprise, transforming how the organization approaches business intelligence.
“It was so well received that Tableau and the model of the data mart became the standard for the entire enterprise,” Lord says. “It’s become a grassroots corporate standard based on the power of the realized project that AXIS’s reinsurance IT team and Slalom did.”