Every insurance company wants to get value out of big data, but for the largest carriers, simply getting started can be a challenge. Those organizations are burdened at both ends: data sets are so massive, and legacy technology environments so prevalent, that operationalizing insight could appear a Sisyphean task.

Those were the challenges Heather Wilson faced when she joined AIG as chief data officer (CDO) three years ago. But they didn’t stand in the way of her building quickly a world-class — and worldwide — data organization.

“The CDO really works with everyone across the organization,” Wilson says. “My role is to make sure that I am putting the proper governance, management and structure around critical data in our organization as well as harnessing the data so we are driving toward insight and intelligence.”

Wilson became AIG’s first ever CDO when she joined following a stint in the same position at Citigroup. She immediately set out to develop what became known as the Data Solutions organization, bringing in more CDOs aligned to different areas of AIG’s business worldwide.

“Our work is very much led by the business partners,” she explains. “Everyone is using data to price or to quote, or to help customers to manage and reduce their fears that they have. We’re there to provide intelligence about things happening in the world.”

Data and analytics, Wilson says, has the potential to completely change the way insurance companies relate to their customers. While in banking, there are multiple touchpoints for customers and the financial institution to interact and cultivate a relationship. However, in insurance, customers typically only contact the insurance company at the time of claim.

“You have to be relevant with your clients, and people really hunger for data and information,” Wilson explains. “Being able to crowdsource, and take events that have happened at another client or industry, and build a logic that allows us to see exposure to our clients and make that an interaction and intelligent conversation is game-changing.”

Wilson also is working on making AIG as an organization the kind of place where women interested in technology and data science can come and thrive. She pioneered the Global Women in Technology organization within AIG, and invited the Girls who Code nonprofit to run a seven-week immersion program at the carrier.

With insurers competing for tech talent with many other industries, being a welcoming, diverse organization can be an asset, Wilson says.

“Insurance is not an industry to which women have been attracted, but  do think AIG is a great destination for women with this type of focus,” she explains. “People want to be in a place where they feel respected and where they feel they can grow their talents and are a huge contributor.

“We have a new CEO and new CIO who are really looking to transform AIG, and I wanted to make sure women see the doors are open to that, and that this is a comfortable place to come as well,” she concludes.


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