Member Spotlight: Barnett Waddingham

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Barnett Waddingham is a professional services consultancy, working across insurance, risk, pensions and investment. Principal Wan Hsien Heah spoke to InsTech London’s Simon Fyles about the company’s technology capabilities and bringing insurers and insurtechs together. 

Simon: Can you tell us a bit more about your role?

Wan: My role is to look at technology and identify how we can bring it into the work that actuaries are doing. We help clients deal with infrastructure setup or building models, and we can check existing models to make sure they work as intended.

Barnett Waddingham celebrated its 30th anniversary last year and the insurance team has been around pretty much since the formation in 1989. I work closely with Cherry Chan, the Head of our General Insurance team. We have both actuaries and data scientists in the BW team so can bring a marriage of both worlds to the work that we do. We like to think of our role as digital actuaries – bringing modern technology and new techniques into the insurance world.

Simon: What sort of clients do you work with in insurance? 

Wan: We have a really broad mix of clients and operate across all segments of the market. We work with large multinational insurers right down to smaller captive insurers. We also work closely with Lloyd’s syndicates and Managing General Agents as well. 

Simon: What about insurtechs? Can you share some examples of the work you’ve done?

Wan: A good example would be the work we did with one of your other insurtech members, who had quite a unique proposition on how they modelled liabilities. We helped them validate that the model was appropriate for various purposes, including to aid pricing, scenario testing and risk management.  

We’ve also been speaking with Cape Analytics and Tractable to examine their technology, outputs, and how they can make life better for actuaries.

Simon: Why do insurance clients choose to work with Barnett Waddingham. What do you offer that’s different? 

Wan: We have worked with both sides – the insurer and the insurtechs. We have also done large-scale technology implementations for insurers so we know what successful projects look like and how to bring both the insurer and the insurtech together.

It’s not just about lifting and dropping a piece of technology into the insurer’s ecosystem. There’s often a lot of thinking around the design and implementation as you navigate legacy systems and existing processes.

For example, while insurtechs have the technological know-how and propositions, insurers can sometimes require other capabilities that an insurtech doesn’t have experience of or haven’t thought of. 

Simon: Implementation is another big area for Barnett Waddingham. What tools and support can you offer?

Wan: Some of the big projects we’ve been working on include actuarial process transformation. Typically, our clients have a process that sort of works but is quite slow, and/or is based around a combination of tools that are no longer fit for purpose.

We look at the entire architecture, algorithms, and the logic behind the process to make sure it stacks up. We help with system design, build and testing to help clients achieve their vision. We can do the end-to-end or just a sub-segment of the work – it all depends on where the client is with their journey and what they need help with the most.

In both cases, we incorporate best practice, and our team are actively involved in technology research and the latest thinking around what the next generation looks like and how to get there faster. This includes things like incorporating data science tools and techniques in actuarial work.

Simon: What are your focus areas for 2021? 

Wan: From a technology perspective, we’re very keen to push forward on the automation and machine learning agenda. Covid-19 has had a huge effect on companies and a lot of them slowed, or even suspended, transformation projects because they had to deal with Covid-19.

But those companies can’t put transformation off any longer. There’s a reason the projects began in the first place and putting them off is delaying the inevitable. 

Simon: We’re always happy to see you and Cherry at InsTech London events. Why did Barnett Waddingham become a corporate member? 

Wan: Our involvement with InsTech London began because we wanted to understand what’s available and believe actuaries can add tremendous value in the transformation process. By doing that, we can be better advocates for our clients. 

The industry is definitely overdue for a digital revolution. We’ve been amazed at the age of some of the technology stacks clients are using. A lot of people understand the need to do something. They understand the need to inject AI into underwriting, claims and actuarial processes, but not many people actually know what's out there and what will work best. That’s where we benefit from being members of InsTech London. 

Simon: Who are you looking to connect with? 

Wan: That really goes back to our priorities. We’re looking for either insurers seeking to move to the next generation of technology or insurtech who have that next generation but need help implementing their ideas.

We’ve also worked with clients in the past to help them understand the market and do their due diligence. Whether that’s a custom solution from an insurtech or a combination, we’re happy to act as that go-between.


For more information on Barnett Waddingham, go to barnett-waddingham.co.uk