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How Intact is promoting Big Data and actuarial training


January 21, 2019   by Jason Contant


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Canada’s largest insurer has teamed up with a Quebec university to establish two new chairs in artificial intelligence (AI) and actuarial science.

Intact Financial Corporation and Université Laval announced Friday:

  • The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC)/Intact Financial Corporation Industrial Research Chair in Machine Learning for Insurance
  • The Educational Leadership Chair (ELC) in Big Data Analysis for Actuarial Science – Intact.

The ELC will train future actuaries in the digital, computing and statistical methods they need to make the most of big data in the insurance industry, Intact said in a press release.

“The ELC will help improve big data capabilities among actuaries and insurance firms,” said chairholder Marie-Pier Côté, an adjunct professor at the university’s Faculty of Science and Engineering. “This new paradigm of big data creates unprecedented possibilities for insurance companies, including better segmentation of customer profiles; greater accuracy in estimating the real cost of products, resulting in improved pricing; closer tracking of customer satisfaction, and more.”

Backed by NSERC, the second chair will focus on interpretable machine learning. The research chair will work with Intact to develop new technology tools to tackle the “big data revolution” and gain a more granular understanding of customer needs,” said chairholder François Laviolette, the founding director of Université Laval’s big data research centre.

The two chairs are supported by a $2 million contribution from Intact Financial Corporation. Including IFC’s contribution and government funding, the research program expects to receive up to $6.5 million. As well, some 30 students from Université Laval’s Faculty of Science and Engineering will participate in the research.

Intact is leveraging AI to design “relevant products and services for customers,” IFC CEO Charles Brindamour said. The collaboration with Université Laval is aimed at “building a leading talent pipeline of actuaries and data scientists, developing cutting-edge products and positioning Quebec and Canada at the forefront of AI and machine learning.” The insurer is also investing in partnerships like the Institute for Data Valorisation to combine its expertise with academic research, and has made an investment in the Vector Institute, which uses AI to “foster economic growth and improve the lives of Canadians.”

Intact told Canadian Underwriter Monday every year it continues to invest in products, tools and training to make the customer experience simpler, faster and more convenient. “Leveraging data, artificial intelligence and technology, our Intact Lab and Data Lab are instrumental in helping us improve and become better at what we do, and enhance the experience we offer to customers and brokers,” the insurer said. “The Data Lab explores new sources of data and uses it to expand our competencies in artificial intelligence.”

For example, Intact says the data from its telematics product is “30% more powerful that what had previously been our most predictive variable.” Beyond rapid acceleration, hard braking, speed and fast turns, the app monitors how drivers use their phone when driving, such as hands-free calls, hand-held calls and active phone use like texting, tapping and swiping. Drivers are provided a distracted driving score and non-distracted drivers are rewarded.

Intact is also leveraging geocoding technology. The technology, in addition to satellite imagery, allows the insurer to assess risk exposure more accurately (such as floodplain risk exposure).