The 2022 Executives to Watch: QBE’s Kristen Bessette
Trained as an actuary, Kristen Bessette, chief actuary, Actuarial & Finance at QBE North America, has always been fascinated by the power of data to help businesses make decisions.
During her career, Bessette has focused on growing and rehabilitating parts of businesses, using her quantitative expertise in traditional actuarial areas of evaluating risk and pricing, as well as utilizing data and analytics to achieve business results.
A question she asked three years ago led to the development of a modern data strategy within QBE that is meeting the future by becoming more digital and data-driven.
“I went to leadership at the time and asked, ‘Who is the owner of the data strategy because I want to make sure that my team’s needs are being reflected in that strategy and that we’re thinking about this?’” Bessette said. “It turned out there really wasn’t a single business owner and so that role became mine.”
Bessette was happy to seize the challenge of developing a cohesive, modern data strategy for the North America division of QBE.
“This was something I wanted to invest my time in, to make sure we get this done,” Bessette said. “We have a strong, customer-focused team working on the data project. They’ve been fantastic and we have found a number of innovative ways to help improve how we serve customers.”
Bessette’s input and vision are credited with changing the direction of the project toward a modern cloud platform, with enabled capabilities like APIs, portals, and bots that are currently being leveraged.
“The data story is really about having a vision for how we could transform as an organization, bringing that to life, and selling it to the executive team to create the multi-year, multi-million-dollar project that’s now in a position to support other projects and makes us more modern and better,” she said.
Throughout her career, Bessette has provided consistently high-quality analytics and pursued active engagement with business leaders. She is currently focused on transformational work in pricing and reserving to improve work flow, visualization capabilities, and tools.
She also is rebuilding data science capabilities to better provide predictive and prescriptive analytics across functions.
Looking forward, she says keeping an eye on inflation and climate change are big issues that QBE North America and the industry as a whole will address.
Data can help in those areas too.
“The more information we have the better decision-making we will do,” she said. “That is why data is so important.”
Acknowledging that the insurance industry faces another challenge of needing to attract young people, she also volunteers with the Spencer Educational Foundation, which introduces students to the varied career paths that risk and insurance offers.
“We’re trying to build a diverse talent pipeline to companies and that’s really important to moving our industry ahead,” she said. &