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Customer Story: Insurance

Speeding to the Head of the Queue at The AA

Insurance comparison websites in the UK give top billing to insurers who respond fastest to online requests for quotes. The AA needed a solution that would enable it to underwrite a prospective driver and deliver a risk-balanced, competitive insurance quote with sub-second speeds.
The Actian Avalanche hybrid database solution.
With Actian Avalanche, The AA can analyze applicant-supplied data, review data from public sources on accident histories and insurance fraud, and deliver a risk-balanced, competitive insurance quote in fractions of a second—which routinely earns it top position on comparative insurance sites.
About The AA
Established in 1905, The AA is the leading provider of roadside assistance services in the UK. The AA brand is highly trusted, and the vehicles owned by its 3+ million members constitute 10% of the cars on the roads of Britain today. The organization operates a wide variety of businesses, including The AA’s Insurance Brokers Group, which interacts with a diverse panel of underwriters to offer a range of vehicle and home insurance policies.

Aggressive, high-speed behaviors may not seem appealing when an insurance company is evaluating whether to insure a driver, but when it comes to responding to an online request for a quote, an aggressive, high-speed response is critical. That’s particularly true in the competitive insurance markets of the UK, where drivers routinely turn to websites like GoCompare.com and CompareTheMarket.com. These insurance quote consolidators present driver-supplied data to insurance companies, which are expected to evaluate that data and immediately present a competitive insurance quote. Indeed, the comparison sites won’t even list a quote returned more than two seconds after the information was originally tendered—and the quotes they do list reflect the order in which they arrived in response to the request.

Hence the emphasis on an underwriting platform that enables an aggressive, high-speed response.

But The AA, one of the UK’s leading insurers and its number one provider of roadside assistance services, doesn’t want to insure just anyone. It wants to target customers with clean driving records and is willing to provide highly competitive insurance rates to those drivers. Determining which drivers are good risk candidates, however, requires more than a cursory look at self-selected demographic data coming in from an online form. The AA subscribes to multiple services that enable it both to validate the information an applicant provides and to analyze information that the applicant may not have provided (such the applicant’s credit rating, information about a car’s accident history, whether the applicant has a history of insurance fraud, and more). If a driver appears to be a good fit, The AA factors these data insights into its underwriting system to calculate a competitive insurance offer, which it then transmits back to the website initiating the query. 

You might think that that kind of detailed analysis and computation would make The AA non-competitive when it comes to responding to a rate query. But you’d be wrong. The AA can return a risk-balanced, competitive quote so quickly that its offers arrive so far ahead of the two second cutoff that they routinely appear at the top of the list of offers.

What drives this aggressive, high-speed response? The Actian Avalanche hybrid database solution.

The Solution

Actian Avalanche relies on a true column-store database that provides unrivaled capabilities to connect, analyze, and act on big data. It can run in the cloud, on-premises, or in a hybrid configuration. Because Avalanche leverages vector processing technology to unlock hidden hardware performance features, it boosts analytical throughput without specialty hardware or even database tuning. Indeed, even when running on commodity hardware, Avalanche offers a massively-parallel, high-performance data processing and real-time analytics solution capable of processing complex queries entirely in memory and returning actionable insights up to 30 times faster than competing solutions.

At The AA, Actian Avalanche, running on-premises and in the cloud, houses the all data required to respond to an inbound insurance quote request for both the automotive and home insurance lines of business. Inbound queries are analyzed against data such as credit ratings, driving history, accident history, and more, then rated and underwritten according to The AA’s rating algorithms. The resulting quote is quickly returned to the requesting website. Personnel within The AA use operational dashboards built with Looker to monitor query/response traffic, conversions, and more.

The Results

Ultimately, what matters to The AA is the ability to deliver strong services to its members and strong returns to its shareholders. Ensuring that it can make sound decisions about risks and premiums is key to achieving both goals—particularly when converting a potential customer depends on a split-second response. 

The processing power unleashed by Actian Avalanche ensures that The AA can review the requisite data, perform a sound analysis, and issue an appropriate response in fractions of a second. The AA’s ability to deliver a competitive, risk-balanced offer so quickly that it can land in one of those top listing spots—if not the top listing spot—helps maximize both exposure and conversions. Drivers looking for insurance are more likely to accept an offer from The AA because of its visibility at the top of the list, its competitive character, and a longstanding reputation for excellence. That’s a win for everyone.

Expanding Real-time Insights Using Looker 

In addition to the Looker dashboards that provide insights into quote query traffic, The AA has built Looker dashboards to gain other real-time insights from the data in Actian Avalanche—from customer retention rates to sales performance against targets. Additionally, since Looker and Avalanche can restrict access to sensitive data, The AA has been working to enable insurance brokers to view certain subsets of the data in Avalanche.

“Actian and Looker integrate seamlessly and deliver real-time insights with great speed and performance. We’re able to make informed, risk-balanced decisions very quickly,” says August Ludwigs, Pricing Analyst at The AA. “When you have a small team, that’s crucial to success in a dynamic marketplace like insurance.”

"Actian and Looker integrate seamlessly and deliver real-time insights with great speed and performance. We're able to make informed, risk-balanced decisions very quickly. When you have a small team, that’s crucial to success in a dynamic marketplace like insurance."
August Ludwigs, Pricing Analyst, The AA
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