26 June 2014 Insurance

Freely available data could solve many challenges

The standardisation of data through open source models could substantially increase the accuracy and efficiency of risk analysis, said Dickie Whitaker, co-CEO, OASIS Loss Modelling Framework, speaking at an event in London yesterday.

Whitaker, who was participating in a panel discussion during the UN’s Disaster Resilience Sumit, said that freely available data could be the answer to the industry’s biggest challenges.

“There are thousands of scientists with reams of data that we should be using,” he said. “With Oasis, we are trying to provide an engine to allow this to happen. By allowing the world to offer expertise in a global space, the power becomes much greater than the single focused organisation.”

Whitaker also addressed the issue of transparency among complex models, saying that Oasis offers a simple way of communicating.

“Businesses, scientists and the insurance industry can communicate simply via Oasis, removing any barriers associated with complex modelling,” he said.

Robert Muir-Wood, chief research officer, RMS, likened the understanding of risk analysis to the structure of a sentence, saying that people need to be educated in the universal grammar of catastrophe modelling.

“Some 95 percent want to work on the hazard part of the ‘sentence’ as it’s exciting, but it’s the vulnerability part, or understanding of how buildings suffer damage for example, which needs work,” he said.

“The challenge of modelling risk is much more complicated as you also have feedback. This feedback which occurs after the event can have political repercussions, which could cause insurers to end up paying for something which wasn’t written into their contract.”

Speakers at the event discussed the pros and cons of open source modelling, which brought mixed reviews. However, one member of the audience said that inevitably open source will eventually have a larger impact in the insurance sector.

Whitaker agreed and said that as an open platform, Oasis did not have the same commercial obligations as a company such as RMS. However, Dr Greg Holland, NCAR, Boulder Co said that a compromise was not needed from either side and that a middle ground could be found if the parties were willing.

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