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Simon Asplen-Taylor, data lead - Future at Lloyd's, Lloyd’s of London

Simon Asplen-Taylor, data lead - Future at Lloyd's, Lloyd’s of London

How is your organisation using data and analytics to support the corporate vision and purpose?

 

At Lloyd’s of London, we’ve recently published our data-led strategy to build the most advanced insurance marketplace in the world. The plans we set out in Blueprint Two will deliver revolutionary change for the market, ensuring the future of the Lloyd’s market is digital from start to finish, with data at its core.

 

The transformation is the biggest and most far-reaching data-led transformation in Europe, creating the world’s most advanced insurance marketplace. This is not only changing the way Lloyd’s works, but also the way the 400-plus market participants work too, including insurance brokers, underwriters, managing agents, and platform providers, creating a more efficient digital-first market.

 

The annual benefits of the transformation to the entire market are estimated at £800 million. As we do this, it will not only change the market, but change Lloyd’s to be a data-led organisation, probably the biggest change since its foundation in 1688.

 

2020 was a year like no other - how did it impact on your planned activities and what unplanned ones did you have to introduce?

 

The pandemic demonstrated that Lloyd’s can adapt in a fast-changing environment and this has only increased our hunger to get on and make further change happen. Despite the personal challenges that individuals and companies faced, everyone rallied round and made the changes happen faster.

 

We all settled into remote working quite quickly and managed to integrate our home lives and work better than before, albeit not without some technical and personal challenges along the way. One of the surprise challenges was our inability to use white boards which we realised was not just a technical one, but a key experience of a coming together to solve problems.

 

The desire to move to a digital eco-system which will improve risk placement in the market and help customers recover from loss has been accelerated by the pandemic, as the ability to transact face to face needs to be replaced by digital alternatives.

 

Looking forward to 2021, what are your expectations for data and analytics within your organisation?

 

We’ve already delivered the data strategy to over 3,000 individuals, market wide, and now the immediate focus is to build a strong data team, ensuring it has the right balance and diversity from the outset. We will have a complex blend of skills, talent, and ways of thinking to manage. As the team develops, our ambition is to create a data and analytics centre of excellence, covering all elements of data, including data governance (getting consistent definitions across a whole market), data quality across the market, data engineering, analytics, and AI - setting up a data community across the whole market.

 

Is data for good part of your personal or business agenda for 2021? If so, what form will it take?

 

I have previously done some pro bono data consulting for not for profit organisations with mixed results. One of my personal agenda items is to do a better job of helping one or two organisations achieve the same benefits from data that commercial ones do. Part of the challenge is having the material to present; and now with the book I’ve written I have plenty of content and no excuses. It’s something that Lloyd’s positively encourage, so I’m happy that I’ll get the support to make it happen in what will be another exceptionally busy year.

 

What has been your path to power?

 

I’ve been fortunate to have an extensive career in data, lasting over 30 years. My first graduate intern role was in 1983, working on a project for the CEO of IBM, Tony Cleaver, ensuring that he had data on his PC so he could demonstrate the value to our major customers with a simple spreadsheet and a few graphs. It was the first PC ever to arrive in the UK with no hard disk just two floppy disk drives. From those early days, I was given the perfect grounding by being introduced to the importance of the value of data, data quality and consistent definitions, data visualisation and the value of analytics.

 

I went on to hold senior data leadership roles in several major companies, including UBS, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Tesco, Bupa, Rackspace, BAE Systems, and IBM. Each sector you work in has its own challenges and strengths, but the core data issues remain the same and the learnings you can take from one company or sector to another are invaluable.

 

I have now served as chief data officer for several FTSE firms and led some of the largest data-led transformations in Europe. I am currently leading the data transformation of the Lloyd’s of London insurance market.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

 

The proudest achievement in my career was leading the design and implementation of the markets in financial instruments directive (MiFID) in 2007 that increased the transparency across the European Union’s financial markets for the UK regulator through the use of data. This was delivered on time, and ahead of the other European countries. I also led the design and implementation of the UK regulator’s industry leading data science and forensic capabilities. There were major challenges in the volumes and variety of realtime and historical data, the integration of complex tool sets, and changing the ways of working of an organisation. The net result was that this led to the first ever prosecution of insider dealing in the UK in 2009.

 

Tell us about a career goal or a purpose for your organisation that you are pursuing?

 

I’ve been privileged to have had a long, varied and rewarding career in data and analytics and I’m always being asked to share my knowledge. So, two years ago, I decided to write a book to help organisations understand how they can maximise the value of their data. The book is to be published in the spring of this year and is entitled, “Data: Use it or lose”. My hope is that it will help CEOs, business executives, senior managers, and those implementing change through data to build on my experiences, understand what value they can get from data and how they can achieve it.

 

How closely aligned to the business are data and analytics both within your own organisation and at an industry level? What helps to bring the two closer together?

 

It’s fair to say they’re not, yet. However, by publishing our data-led strategy to the market, and ensuring we take the market on that journey with us, we can start with that intent. Lloyd’s is a marketplace so we cannot just make changes and hope that the 400-plus participants will come with us. It’s important to understand the pain points in the market and in our own organisation.

 

We’ve conducted a lot of research and that’s been critical in informing our approach. Engagement and adoption are key so that we can ensure a) that the changes we plan have value, and b) can be adopted. We’ve got several advisory groups that validate our plans and approaches, and while at times that can feel onerous, it’s essential. Finally, we need to deliver. It’s all well and good having a strategy and getting people to buy into that but they need to see the results in action quickly or they’ll lose faith.

 

What is your view on how to develop a data culture in an organisation, building out data literacy and creating a data-first mindset?

 

You need to have a data strategy that the organisation can rally behind, and, in turn, that needs to align explicitly to the business goals. The next step is to ensure that you share the strategy and present it to the organisation through blogs, intranet and “town hall” meetings, with clear and demonstrable CEO backing. It’s then the job of the data leader to inspire people to want to be part of the data strategy, through their roles, personal interest, and ambition. It’s a selling job, and, if done right, you’ll get a lot of volunteers. As the maturity level increases, you need to ensure that the data activities are embedded in everyone’s job descriptions.

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