Reliable data is an indispensable resource for actuaries, whether they are novices or seasoned practitioners. However, finding this data, understanding how to use it, and determining whether it is relevant to an actuarial investigation or analysis can cause a lot of frustration.
The use of external data can be extremely beneficial for the purposes of supplementing and validating internal data, allowing syndicates to compare their own experience with the wider industry.
The consequences of having poor quality or inappropriate data in any actuarial undertaking can be quite severe, often resulting in false accounting, inappropriate reserves or premium rates, anti-selection, or even a missed opportunity, which can all result in less profitable business.
In the Lloyd’s Market, there are instances where internal data is not sufficient. For example, an insurer may be pricing complex liability risks with a range of aggregate features or a large portfolio of property risks, with limited occupancy details. While larger companies tend to have more internal data available than smaller companies, this does not always mean they are making better decisions, and the use of legacy systems can impact the integrity of data.
One of the overarching challenges with internal data is that it can’t always give you the full picture of any given risk, and what you do have access to may be inadequate, outdated, or inconsistent. Policies may be sold using different distribution channels and further complications can arise if the data available is for reinsurance business rather than direct insurance. With this in mind, it’s important for us to subject internal data to rigorous quality controls to ensure its validity, consistency, reliability, and accuracy.
The use of external data can be extremely beneficial for the purposes of supplementing and validating internal data, allowing syndicates to compare their own experience with the wider industry. External data can also help make it easier for new companies to enter the market and help established carriers write new lines of business. External data can be obtained from a huge variety of sources, including UK flood maps, credit ratings, CRESTA zones, or from the services provided by ISO.
It would be remiss to discuss the benefits of external data without discussing the potential limitations.
Not enough detail: External data may not be detailed enough, meaning users of the data are only able to complete a high-level analysis.
Too detailed: Equally, if it is too granular, then there must be a clear methodology for aggregating such data.
Highly variable: When external data is acquired from multiple sources, it can be heterogeneous, with often high levels of variability. For example, the different data providers may use different perils, different geographical or socioeconomic sections of the market, or have differences in claims settlement or the calculation of outstanding reserves. However, we can mitigate the impact of this by understanding the risk profile of the underlying data and any information that allows us to track case reserves over time.
Differ by data source: The quality and reliability of external data may also be affected by the contributors of data themselves. Users of data may be given a skewed or incomplete view of the market as there may be a notable difference between the claims experience of data submitted compared to the data that has not been submitted. The extent to which these issues will impact the insurer depends on the usage of the data. Claims experience may not necessarily matter as much to a team marketing a product compared to the team pricing or reserving for that product.
Striking the right balance
External data provides the most value when it can be used as a reliable industrywide benchmark, strikes the right balance between granularity and accessibility, and can easily be configured to complement your own internal data.
At Verisk, we provide aggregate premium and loss experience data from one of the largest property and casualty databases in the world, and offer many services to actuaries including benchmarking, classification analysis, product development, as well as loss development trends, loss ratios, and profit measures.
All Lloyd’s syndicates have access to the Lloyd’s ISO Portal, which acts as an interface for Verisk’s ISO data. It draws from Verisk’s vast database of ISO rating information and offers different views of loss cost and rating factor averages for multiple scenarios across many classes of business and U.S. jurisdictions. Alternatively, you can simply download Verisk data and incorporate the information into your own rating models.
Within the portal there are 18 lines of business containing loss costs information, trends, increased limit factors (ILFs), as well as forms, wordings, circulars, and estimates of catastrophic insured property losses.
Reliable data is the key component behind any sound actuarial or pricing decision. Establishing a good framework where internal and external data can be used effectively to support each other is critical.
For more information about the Lloyd's ISO Portal, please visit our webpage.