Data partnership set to improve the insurance sector
30 November 2020

The University of Auckland is partnering with Kiwi insurer, Tower, to align academic research capabilities with real world industry needs. Together they will leverage data and digital resources to improve the sector for customers.  

New Zealand road

“By working together,” Tower’s Chief Executive Officer Blair Turnbull says, “both organisations will be able to make better use of data to engage in joint research activities and come up with better outcomes for New Zealanders and improve customer experiences.”

As well as streamlining processes in areas of importance for Tower today, the collaboration will lay the groundwork for the data-driven future of the New Zealand insurance industry. It will also open up opportunities for the next generation of data scientists.

The collaboration is facilitated through UniServices, a not-for-profit company of the University of Auckland. UniServices champions research and ideas that bridge the world of academia with business and government to build new knowledge and solutions. 

In the view of Greg Murison, UniServices Executive Director for Strategic Growth, Tower is leading the way in New Zealand with initiatives to harness research-driven knowledge and better prepare the insurance industry for the challenges of the future. 

“Tower has accumulated a trove of data over the years and is proactively engaged in finding ways to make the most of this resource for its customers. 

“Our joint research activities will leverage data and digital resources to make the process of buying insurance easier and faster for customers. In the long run, the relationship between Tower staff and academics will foster the development of the next generation of data science tools in an effort to get the most out of insurance data,” says Murison. 

Insurance has a significant, but perhaps historically understated set of opportunities for both Digital and Data Science students”, says Miles Fordyce, Head of Data and Customer Platforms. 

“The practical application of their research and skills in solving complex business problems is something we are very excited about and hope that we can open doors towards future careers in the industry,” says Fordyce.

“To begin with the partnership will focus on analysing fire trends in New Zealand residential property so we can give more tailored pricing to customers, geocoding residential locations in the Pacific Islands and optimising insurance survey design. This will enable Tower to understand risk in more detail and give customers a bespoke experience with a price and offering that suits their needs.

“Long term these pieces of work will be extended with a focus on making data available to customers, helping to increase education around risks like climate change and severe weather,” says Fordyce.

Director of the Data Science Programme at the University of Auckland Professor Sebastian Link explains the partnership with Tower also enables students within the University’s data science programmes to embark on projects with specific industry context, providing them with invaluable experience, and establishing a recruitment conduit for Tower. 

“Students will not only develop solutions for technical problems, but also attempt to quantify what the solutions to such problems might imply for Tower’s operations. They will also look into how those solutions flow through to the customer experience. 

“The shared aspirational vision is to co-create leadership in data-driven decision making within the insurance domain, aligning academic research capabilities with real world industry expertise for the benefit of stakeholders and consumers alike,” says Professor Link.