A Data Festival? Now you're talking

DATAfest: decidedly fantastic 

First Central’s an insurance company with a difference. A huge one. Just look at the way we describe ourselves – a fast-growing UK insurer and innovator in data. We don’t just use data, it’s fundamental to our success and our people are constantly developing visionary ways of drilling down to mine its value. As insurers, it’s our job to protect the things that matter to our customers so they can safely focus their energies on other stuff. And, being in the insurance business means we’re 100% committed to understanding that risk and keeping up to speed with whatever fluctuating risk factors the market, the environment, our government and our society chuck our way. This demands an ever-evolving capacity for interpretation; we never stop boosting our data superpowers so we can understand the narrative data reveals. We’re in the business of data facts, not fairytales. We don’t let First Central’s nerds hold data’s potential close to their chests either; we make sure we shout about its world-changing wizardry across our whole business. 

Talking of which, to share our pioneering ideas and broaden the conversation about data’s opportunities and challenges, we recently hosted our very first national DATAfest. A conference bringing together 120 like-minded colleagues and partners in a London location, we offered 22 sessions involving 35 internal and external speakers. What a data lover’s dream! We explained key techniques to structure data experiments so colleagues can stay on track and quickly achieve what they need to. We’ll leave the rabbit holes to our floppy-eared friends in future… We introduced some cutting-edge data science models we might use in time to revolutionise how we do things. Delegates experienced a spellbinding journey of discovery that laid bare the magic and benefits of data governance and we put on a partner-led interactive Generative AI demonstration that explained how the technology’s being applied across the insurance industry. This is just a flavour of the day’s many activities; the forums were almost as numerous as data’s endless possibilities within First Central. Colleagues relished the opportunity to share insights, connect, network and push the boundaries of our knowledge. 

Paul French, our Director of Data and Analytics, said: “I’m privileged to lead First Central’s Data and Analytics capability and was blown away by the energy, passion and enthusiasm for DATAFest. I’d hoped the event would develop deeper colleague engagement with our data strategy, spark creative thinking and encourage collaboration. Wow, did it do that and so much more. A particular highlight was hearing colleagues outside the data team share ideas and consider how they could be reused in other departments. True networking and cooperation in action." 

We’re true believers in trying new ways of working and testing innovative ideas, even if they don’t entirely come off first time. We learn from the experience, move on having absorbed valuable lessons and have another go. We know some of the best ideas come from unexpected places so DATAfest was as interactive as we could make it. We encouraged our people to think big and swap ideas we could transform into opportunities. Who knows what game-changing initiatives these collaborative clusters might spark? 

We’re still collecting feedback but, so far, we’re looking at an average rating of 9 for the conference and we’ll be reflecting on people’s comments about the experience. We’ll do more of what worked and less of what didn’t next time. The signals are that colleagues took loads away from the event. The extensive range of activities was welcomed and everyone appreciated our leadership team’s presence. Their interest showed authentic tangible commitment to data’s place in First Central’s business, culture and future. Here are a few of the comments:

 “DATAfest has brought Generative AI to life and it allowed me to see what the art of the possible is, what's available now and how it will shape the way we manage claims and customer interactions.”

“As a data professional, seeing how keen the rest of the business is to get involved with data and how they want us to help and shape the business was great.”

We won’t be putting a lid on our data dynamism any time soon either. To explore the endless possibilities of GenAi we’ve invited our people to bring their skills, ideas and creativity to life in a one-day hackathon before Christmas. The challenge, if they choose to accept it, is to conjure up a concept to crack all others. The bold brainwave that’ll take the biscuit. Speaking of which, there’ll be festive snacks and drinks to fuel their ingenuity as well as a generous prize. We’re serious about what we do but love to shake things up to spark ideas. 

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