We spent some time with Martha Schrader, Vice President, Business Intelligence & Analytics at Northbridge Financial, ahead of the upcoming Chief Data and Analytics Officer, Canada conference happening on May 16-17, 2017 in Toronto to get her thoughts on the biggest challenge faced by the data and analytics industry today. She also talked about the biggest predictions of the past year have gone so wrong and how the industry can recover from it.
Corinium: Please tell us about your journey to becoming a data and analytics leader.
Martha Schrader: The journey of a data and analytics leader is an evolving one. I originally come from the IT world, with an expertise in Enterprise Architecture and a passion for Data. One of the challenges as an Enterprise Architect is that from time to time, you need to go beyond talking about how to deliver and roll up your sleeves and work with teams to deliver. For the next little while, I am doing just that -delivering on a mandate for Northbridge to become more successful through delivering practical data solutions to business problems.
Corinium: Do you see your role changing/evolving in the next 5 years? If so, how?
Martha Schrader: Very much so. The focus of our team has started with the right data foundation. Get the right level of granularity at the right frequency. As we build our data sets, it is going to be more about working in a consultative and strategic fashion with our business teams to understand what predictive models add value to our organisation and how to embed it into our operational systems. With that comes a lot of technology, business strategy alignment and even more change management.
Corinium: What are the main objectives for analytics within your organisation?
Martha Schrader: To help our organisation mature from a management reporting type operation to using BI and analytics as part of our daily operations and decision making. We have teams of Actuaries focussed on pricing and risk selection, we want to apply that same expertise through the lifecycle of our business.
Corinium: What is the biggest challenge you face within your role today and how are you looking to tackle it?
Martha Schrader: Immediately, it is that next big step of moving from stand-alone dashboards and reporting into the predictive and prescriptive analytics world. The skills that my team needs and the skills that are required throughout our operations for adoption to be successful. We could design the perfect models – but if they aren’t solving tangible business problems or being adopted into our operations, then we become an R&D team. I don’t want an R&D team – I want a team that helps drive growth, profitability and a great workplace at Northbridge.
Corinium: What do you feel is the biggest challenge faced by the analytics/big data industry currently and in what ways does this affect your business?
Martha Schrader: Credibility. We are the hot industry right now. However, when you look at some of the big predictions over the past year, Brexit, the recent election in the US, where our stock markets are going and for how long – analytics is the backbone of the rhetoric coming from various pundits. How can business rely on predictive analytics when our industry is getting some of the really big predictions very wrong?
Corinium: Where do you see being the biggest area of investment in analytics within your industry over the next 12 months?
Martha Schrader: As the insurance industry creates more digital labs & innovation teams, it will be a deep investment in people expertise followed by tools.
Corinium: If you could have one piece of technology which would revolutionise you and/or your departments activities, what would it be? It could be something that already exists, or not.
Martha Schrader: Honestly, my first reaction right now it would almost be less technology – the proliferation of tools, SAS services and vendors calling my team on a daily basis is distracting to us trying to focus on solving business problems. But I understand that the technology landscape is changing, and as it matures, there will be tool for consolidation. So our job is to keep ourselves focused and not too distracted with shiny new technology.
Corinium: What is your ultimate goal as a data and analytics leader?
Martha Schrader: Drive a data-driven culture throughout our organisation. Up the game of our front line managers to use information and analytics seamlessly in their working day. Won’t happen overnight but we are working very hard to achieve that goal.