An Innovative Approach to Data Science — From the Head of a Data Science Enablement Team

Sponsored by The Hartford

Aditi Baker of The Hartford

Image courtesy of The Hartford.

The Hartford
The Hartford
May 28, 2024 at 10:17AM UTC

There has never been a better time to work in tech, especially within the insurance industry. The pace of innovation is rising, and technologists have many opportunities to make a lasting impact.

At The Hartford, we have a data science team that drives innovation on multiple fronts. “The innovation space is growing exponentially,” says Aditi Baker, head of The Hartford’s Data Science Enablement team. “It helps to have a central group that is focused on understanding how to navigate this space in a scalable way.”

The Hartford’s Data Science Enablement team encompasses four different groups:

  • The Feature Integration team enables high-value data science products by creating assets that focus on making data and features highly available, connectable and trustworthy with increased accuracy. 

  • The Artificial Intelligence (AI) Assets team promotes innovation through the increased use of artificial intelligence by mining unstructured data like text and images for insights.

  • The Underwriting Assets team provides a competitive advantage in underwriting and pricing through automation and data-driven decision-making. 

  • The Machine Learning Operations (MLOps) team delivers models as a service along with machine learning life cycle management to facilitate speed-to-market for data science insights.

The solutions built by these teams support a variety of business use cases like:

  • Risk segmentation 

  • Streamlining work through triaging and reducing hand-offs

  • Automating decisions that can lead to greater efficiencies throughout a process like quoting

  • Identifying opportunities such as new business leads or target markets. 

“From deep learning to testing how workflows can be streamlined using computer vision and AI, the teams are constantly testing and using cutting-edge technology,” Aditi explains. “Success in innovation depends on striking a balance between discovering and utilizing a new tech stack as well as inviting our business partners to accompany us on the journey. This helps harvest ideas around use cases and ensures that our product delivers value to the business and creates the excitement to do more.”

Pushing the Boundaries

Each team that Aditi leads is pushing the boundaries when it comes to innovation. For instance, the Underwriting Assets team has created an Analytic Rating Engine that enables product, underwriting and actuarial teams to analyze the impact of changes to pricing models. The Feature Integration team has enabled The Hartford’s analytics community to unlock more insights through greater connectivity between data sources via data marts and entity resolution.

“In our growing liability business lines, we place a high value on the capability to accurately select and price business, as we believe this is fundamental to competing in the marketplace,” says John Sakakeeny, vice president and head of general liability and umbrella product lines at The Hartford. “Aditi and the Data Science Enablement team are at the center of that, bringing new data and insights that we work into better tools for our underwriters. The effect of enhanced tools is evident in our top and bottom lines: When we get pricing right, we draw in the best business and push out the worst.”

The voice of their internal customers is critical as Aditi’s teams work with their business partners to support their growth and efficiency strategies. Building on their feedback and excitement, the AI Assets team tests innovative ideas and products through an Incubation Lab and scales AI and deep learning capabilities within an AI Factory.

“The exploration process is fun for both the business and data teams. We jump at the chance to get projects running with the Data Science Enablement team,” John says.

As demand for advanced analytics continues to grow, Aditi and her teams need to think about how to help Data Science scale efficiently. MLOps will enable scale effectively by combining DevOps machine learning life cycle with the delivery of models as a service. 

The growth in demand and continued progress Aditi’s teams are making are also leading to career opportunities in IT and within our businesses. We’re hiring for more data scientists, data engineers, product owners, asset owners and ML engineers to stay ahead of the exponentially increasing pace of innovation.

Looking ahead, Aditi and her teams will continue to innovate in ways that have the potential to transform the future of insurance operations at The Hartford. They are continually brainstorming with their business partners to expand use cases that can be tied to operational efficiencies and easier workflows, along with a better understanding of risk. The team is also excited to see how MLOps becomes part of the data science DNA, fueling innovation and improving financial performance.

“Data science at The Hartford has a competitive advantage because of our significant focus and investment in engineering and process efficiencies,” Aditi says. “Not only are we keeping current in tools and technologies and hiring excellent talent, but also bringing systems design thinking to data science. And in that regard, we look to learn from leading tech companies outside of insurance, instead of re-inventing the wheel.”

Envisioning a Data-Driven Future for the Insurance Industry

For Aditi, data is and will continue to be the driving force for the insurance industry. “As we move toward more data-driven analytics, our need for data increases,” she says. “The industry is starting to value and understand data as an asset, with a focus on the smart use of data while respecting and protecting privacy laws.”

Efficiency will also be in play according to Aditi. “It’s about making data and features accessible at various stages of its life cycle, such that data engineers are not spending weeks on cleaning up and preprocessing data before a model can be built,” she says. “In order to be able to innovate with big data, we need to be nimbler about our ability to access and understand data and mine insights, which will be a key part of innovation.”

Yet accessibility goes hand in hand with quality. “Today, the insurance industry sits on vast amounts of data. However, when the data is heterogenous and lacks appropriate metadata or cannot be easily connected with other data sources, it remains idle and unused,” Aditi says. “The industry is starting to appreciate the need for a single version of the truth and the reliability of insights mined from data. Using AI to help improve data quality and track data lineage will be a game changer for the industry.”

Inspiring Leadership in Others

“Within data, analytics and technology leadership at The Hartford, there are role models for everyone, including people of color in senior executive roles, which is promising,” Aditi says. “I am excited about The Hartford’s commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion and am eager to see how the continued investments and focus result in meaningful impact on our workforce and culture in the near future.”

As a leader, Aditi is passionate about sponsoring and mentoring others and helping them discover their potential. “It’s quite rewarding to witness someone’s career growth and how their skill sets expand to the next level,” she says. Reaching out to mentors and joining leadership programs is vital advice Aditi offers women aspiring for growth in their careers.

“Look out for programs that coach you in leadership because they bring you accelerated learning that you might not otherwise get on the job,” says Aditi. At The Hartford, for instance, the EMPOWER program helps enhance the leadership skills of emerging leaders of color. Their managers are also part of the program so they can learn how to cultivate an inclusive environment that supports leaders of color and break barriers in their career trajectory.

Other potential career game changers include risk-taking and networking. “Always have conversations — you never know what a dialogue might spark. A simple coffee chat with someone might inspire a drastic change in your career,” Aditi says.  “Don’t be afraid to take a risk, and don’t wait for the right opportunity to come to you.”  

Learn more about our growing career opportunities in Tech & Data at The Hartford.


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