Even as the U.S. economy improves, insurers continue to face a host of challenges, including long-term low-level interest rates, which dampen earnings and the commodification of insurance products, increasingly sold online at a discount — all of which erode profit.

In the face of these challenges, insurers as diverse as AIG, Swiss Re, Progressive, Falls Lake and others are looking to leverage the power of analytics and big-data sources to be more selective about the risks they assume and price them more accurately, even as they grapple with new and unfamiliar data and technology and the cost of acquiring that technology and institutional knowledge. “Insurance is notorious for looking in the rear view mirror in order to drive forward; that’s the essence of our business,” says Steve Hartman, president and CEO of Falls Lake Insurance Companies: “We make an estimate each time we price a piece of business; we won’t know what that cost actually is for a few years.”

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