If there were a competition for breathless hype in technology, big data would be the current champion — there’s even a Brooklyn-based band by the name.  And though the phrase is ubiquitous in boardrooms and IT departments across categories of companies, the insurance industry is in many ways taking the lead in getting real business value from the volume, velocity, and variety of massive datasets.

Why are insurers taking this challenge on at the same time they are grappling with core-systems transformation, evolving customer expectation and regulatory upheaval? Well, says Pawan Divakarla, big data business leader at Progressive Insurance, “Big data actually does work.”

And the results can be dramatic. According to recent research from Accenture, a third of insurers now are using data from wearable technologies, such as FitBits and Jawbones, to collect lifestyle data from insureds. Insurance telematics is now mainstream — and subject matter experts say the latest big data technologies and techniques offer insurance companies an opportunity to circumvent exhaustive data cleanup efforts that previously have stymied reporting and analytics efforts.

But big data is still difficult, Divakarla admits, and while the technology itself offers great promise, people are a critical element for success. Insurers must develop data workers, not just data scientists, who need to understand programming, where to find data, and how it’s structured, as well as the business issues they are tasked with solving, he explains.

Insurance Networking News identified 10 insurance companies, across lines of business, that demonstrate true leadership in big data and analytics excellence by developing cross-enterprise strategy, delivering results from the corporate investment, and perhaps most importantly, identifying and recruiting key staff members with the right expertise. The strategies may vary, but the commitment is real.

Progressive Insurance

MassMutual

American Family Insurance

John Hancock

CNA

Nationwide

Swiss Re

Allstate

Zurich

QBE North America

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