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What do customer centricity and big data have in common?

Published on 05/06/2012 by Anna Brown, Editor

big data

Dr. Ralf Schneider, CIO of Allianz Group at his recent presentation at the Premier Business Leadership Seminar in Amsterdam

You can't get one without managing the other. And you can't manage big data without getting a handle on your organization’s complexity.

"Complexity is not scalable, but the management of complexity is," said Dr. Ralf Schneider, CIO of Allianz Group at his recent presentation at the Premier Business Leadership Seminar in Amsterdam. Based in Munich, Allianz Group is a multinational financial services company with 78 million customers. It specializes in insurance, asset management and banking.

The days when financial service providers could make decisions by looking at customer data once a year or a once quarter are gone. To assess risk, price products and make appropriate offers, insurers need real-time awareness of the customer and market conditions. At Allianz, Schneider manages this with a worldwide standardized IT infrastructure. The company has invested in a shared service center, shared platforms and shared applications in business intelligence and business analytics solutions.

This CIO-directed, all-in-one approach might send shivers down the spines of business unit chiefs who want to control the data and solutions that help them manage segments of the business, but Schneider notes the value. “The individual systems are local, but the platforms are global. This is how we’re scaling the complex data,” explained Schneider. Everyone works from the same data sets. The actuaries and underwriters work from the same data sets, although Allianz does allow data to be placed in separate warehouses and data marts for particular specialist purposes.

Bridging to real time
Schneider needed to get Allianz’ data standardized; to do so, he used high-performance analytics to support the company’s push into real-time marketing. Among other products, the company offers personalized travel insurance, which requires Allianz to quickly crunch the data customers supplied (through booking of a flight via a Web portal, for example) and automatically enable a personalized offer to pop up in one second. It also needed to learn from the offers that customers accept or reject to make the next best offer, creating a feedback loop to constantly improve offers. While only 2 percent of the 1.1 billion offers are accepted per year, the business is growing by 35 percent a year. “There is a lot of opportunity here, but we continue to grow from the fast, individualized analytics,” said Schneider.

Global BI: Three major components
High-performance analytics is critical for three other areas as well:

  • Finding the right question to deliver the next best offer, advice or service to the customer. Having pre-set queries is not enough, and senior management demands analytics that are flexible enough and intuitive enough to reach this level.
  • Discovering ways to increase the value of the customer portfolio, including defining lifetime value of the customer.
  • Fighting fraud with data. “Seventy percent of our dollars goes to the claims business – that’s an indication this is an area to focus on. Fraud detection is often done by gut feel. Now that’s changing, gut feeling is supported by data,” Schneider says.

Allianz received the SAS Enterprise Excellence Award at SAS Global Forum 2012. In accepting the award, Schneider summed up the changing landscape succinctly: “The strategy of Allianz is to leverage scale, skill and scope. Real time is changing the game. The customer expects instant gratification … you have to deliver service in real time.”

He continued this thought in Amsterdam, “To manage the complexity in this global digital world with platforms and real-time analytics, you start with classical analytics. But the way to go is the high-performance route.”

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