James Harrison – Dun & Bradstreet

Spøtlight : 5 min read

This week our Spøtlight is on James Harrison, Dun & Bradstreet’s UK Head of Insurance. We explore why data and insight have never been so important for businesses, and what his plans are for his first 12-months in his new role.


Hi James, can you tell us a bit about yourself, and your background before joining Dun & Bradstreet?

I started my career as a Lloyd’s broker where I worked at Millers for three years. I completed secondments in Marine, Treaty Reinsurance and Financial Lines before becoming an Upstream Energy (Re)insurance broker, whereby I placed exposures relating deep sea oil and gas exploratory wells.

This was a fantastic learning experience for me.  I began to understand the mechanics of the London Market and the nuances across different lines of business. In these years, you could start to see the rising impact of digital and data technologies and how FinTech and InsurTech propositions could enable the market. Seeing this moment as a career opportunity, I entered management consultancy with Accenture and Deloitte to focus on supporting (re)insurance and other Financial Services institutions to meet their strategic goals and guide their digital transformation.

I was fortunate to follow a passion in digital strategy and FinTech by becoming the UKI InsurTech lead for Accenture. This granted me the opportunity to help shape early stage propositions to target opportunities and alleviate pain points across specialty, general insurance and wealth management.

The insurance industry is now evolving at an unprecedented pace, accelerated by the global pandemic. At Dun & Bradstreet I am excited to help navigate clients through this change.


What does your new role as Head of Insurance encompass, and can you tell us more about the timing of what was going on in the business when you joined.

I’m excited to be joining Dun & Bradstreet, a leading global provider of business decisioning and analytics, at such a pivotal time for the insurance industry. Experiences across industry and consultancy have made it clear to me that enhanced data capability has never been more important.

Dun & Bradstreet has recognised this and has invested in its insurance capability so that we are well placed to guide insurers and brokers through this pivotal time. The opportunities posed by digital for insurers are all underpinned by becoming truly data driven organisations. Data and analytics will play a key role in powering the next paradigm of change in the Insurance industry.

In my new role as UKI Head of Insurance for Dun & Bradstreet, I will look to help clients unlock the full capability of data analytics to help meet their strategic goals and help navigate this change. We have fresh focus on the insurance industry going above and beyond of our traditional capability within trade credit and compliance to help support insurers on growth and operational efficiency.


Can you go into a bit of detail on the value Dun & Bradstreet brings to the table for its clients?

Innovative insurers are turning to Dun & Bradstreet’s rich data set to improve the ability to upsell and cross-sell products and to build client understanding and a more adaptive customer journey.

The wealth of data available to insurers is not new, but with the development of high-performance tools and data technologies, insurers now have the opportunity to become fully integrated digital organisations with enhanced analytical capability. New data technologies will touch every aspect of insurance and can provide new opportunities across the value chain for the industry that didn’t exist a few years ago. The industry is starting to wake up to this and incumbents are starting to look for competitive advantage by partnering with those who can support their data transformation journey.

Dun & Bradstreet, through its products and service offerings coupled with its wealth of insurance industry experience, is the partner of choice to help support the industry navigate through this change.

There are three main areas where insurers can benefit from data and insight:

Develop a High-Resolution View of the Customer Base
Insurers can leverage a full spectrum of data sources to develop a high-resolution view of their customers to increase understanding of client pain points and needs and inform the development of innovative products and services to improve the customer experience.

Adapt to digital operating models
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for operating models across many industries to be adaptable, resolute and digitally enabled to ensure effective operations in a changing environment. The digitalisation of key processes will be critical and intelligent organisations will therefore realise the value of uniform foundational data.

Optimise Portfolios to Drive Growth
An uncertain economic environment can impact existing portfolios, increase risk and identify new opportunities to grow through new segments, new partnerships and new products. Embracing enhanced data and analytics can help insurers gain an in-depth understanding of the commercial and economic environment and enable informed and quick decision making on underwriting, rate changes, claims reserving and outward reinsurance purchasing.


What are your plans for your first 12-months at Dun & Bradstreet?

I think the perception in the insurance market is that Dun & Bradstreet is strong in two areas – trade credit and compliance, which is understandable as our company has grown from a credit scoring proposition. Before joining I understood that Dun & Bradstreet’s capability is far reaching, going well beyond these two use cases, providing analytical capability across the value chain to supporting strategic goals across sales, marketing, growth, cost reduction – the list goes on.

So a key part of my plan in the first 12 months is brand awareness and to make sure insurers know our full capability across the enterprise to support digital acceleration for our clients. We have the most comprehensive Data Cloud of business data and analytical insights available which underpins our solutions so we can offer enormous value to the commercial and specialty insurance markets and really enrich their data capability.


What’s your view on the market at the moment? What are some of the key opportunities and threats Covid-19 presents to insurers right now?

It’s fair to say the insurance industry could and should be more proactive with its investments in digital and advanced analytics. Before COVID-19, the industry had been slow to embrace true digital change often highlighting legacy technology, big implementations that have gone wrong, complex processes and products as the reasons not to invest.

Covid-19 has changed the status quo for everybody, quite simply the industry industry must become more proactive in it’s digital acceleration. We now live in an on-demand world where customer expectations are changing at a rapid pace – this includes 24/7 real time access and a seamless, omnichannel experience as the minimum standard. The insurers that don’t invest will continue to have unadaptive customer journeys, weak self-service capabilities and miss the growth opportunities from not maximising the insights from their data to drive growth from new and existing policyholders.

The current global economic climate has highlighted the reliance upon legacy ways of working, strained networks and a lack of devices enabled for home working. The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the fragility of some operating models and how insurers could be negatively impacted if one of their business units’ experiences trade complications.

The insurers that will lead in a post COVID-19 world are those that will use the impact of the pandemic as the opportunity to take action to embrace digital experiences, truly understand their customers, utilise automation, and future proof their operating models by investing in data and digital technologies.



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