Our data academy is changing our culture

Carlo Nebuloni, Transformation Director in Guest blog

4 February 2021

Data sits at the core of any insurance business. At AXA, we are making strides to become a data-driven and data-confident organisation across all business units and functions. Nobody can utilise data without people, so it is crucial we equip our people with the skills they need to benefit our customers and make our processes more efficient. To continue building a pipeline of talent, we have placed data analytics apprenticeships at the very centre of learning and development. This will have a profound impact on our culture.

When we launched our data academy last July, we were expecting a fair amount of interest. After all, insurance has always been about analysing data; this is what actuaries do, isn’t it? But the level and breadth of enthusiasm for our data academy has far surpassed our expectations. Over 50 colleagues from all areas of our business have already enrolled in the programme, including those working in claims, compliance, underwriting and Human Resources. With apprentices ranging in age from 22 to 55, it is particularly pleasing to see how the academy is supporting us in furthering our goal of embedding continuous learning as part of our ethos.

We’re showcasing our data academy during National Apprenticeship Week (8th-14th February 2021), whose key theme this year is ‘Build the Future’, because that is what we’re doing: we are futureproofing our workforce and evolving our business for the future. We are adapting to our new digital environment, just like we had to adapt to our lockdown environment. Our training partner Avado rolled out this remote-learning programme in the middle of a pandemic, and that feat illustrates our colleagues’ agility.

Our apprentices have very varied profiles, which makes perfect sense: the academy is designed for AXA employees who haven’t previously received formal training in data analytics and this initiative recognises that all our people are working with data every day. It gives them all the opportunity to expand their knowledge in this area and to implement it in their day-to-day role.

Unlike a traditional academic course, the training is genuinely practical. Apprentices remain embedded in their everyday job. They are given access to our latest technology and assets, including our data lake in the cloud. And they are handed tasks to solve that are relevant to their day-to-day roles. They apply what they learn to their current environment and challenges.

The potential outputs are as varied as the apprentices’ profiles. In claims, they may improve the claims journey and reduce claims costs, for instance. In underwriting, they may lead to new ways of pricing risks or detecting fraud. In HR, a better understanding of employee dynamics may enhance our ways of working. Those various results are very concrete and, in the end, have little to do with computers.

Leveraging data goes way beyond IT processes. Its one overarching principle is to improve decision making. This can – and should – be implemented at all levels. Instead of being based on a partial view of the situation, decisions should be based on substantiated evidence. Being insight-driven is better for us as an organisation and will support better outcomes for our customers. Data insights and customer outcomes are two pillars of our strategy, but they are not separate, they are intertwined.

Along the way, some concerns might be raised about how data is being used. With more and more data becoming available to us through enhanced technologies like GPS and wearables, this is understandable. Many stakeholders will want reassurance that data insights are indeed supporting better customer outcomes. Questions may come from colleagues, clients, partners, regulators and the general public. With so many different people trained and involved, we’ll be in a stronger position to demonstrate our responsible use of data, from privacy to governance. This is why we included the full governance process and relevant training within our academy. And all participants completed their own specific Data Protection Impact Assessment before enrolling on the course.

Instilling data-driven processes requires a people solution. Colleagues from all areas of the business are involved in the data academy, receiving the full experience of our target data platforms. They are learning how to ensure data is accurate, how to interrogate it and interpret it. This state of mind and these skills, now at work in every area of our organisation, will support transparency. Our colleagues will not just implement the data technologies we are rolling out, they will be explaining them and owning them. They will be data champions.

The data academy has planted seeds all around our organisation. As data innovations are germinating in every corner, we can expect a culture of insights will soon flourish.