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Amandine 7 1

Data governance gives your job more impact

Interview with Amandine Rouvroy, Chief Data Officer at Federale Verzekering

As Chief Data Officer, a relatively recent position within Federale Verzekering, Amandine Rouvroy is pushing boundaries - or are they milestones? "Data governance may sound incredibly dull, while it is anything but when you consider what it really means: giving all employees more impact in their job." Data management and migration in all their aspects do not limit Amandine's world: the computer scientist also has a passion for painting, is (twice) a mother, a horse whisperer, a lover of people and a Japanese warrior.

With four years of experience within Federale Verzekering's Business Intelligence Competence Centre (BICC) team under her belt, Amandine Rouvroy became the very first Chief Data Officer of the insurance company in the second half of 2022. Business Intelligence had also been her professional playground in the years prior: Amandine has, among other things, implemented the Enterprise Data Lake for ING.

Where does your fascination for data stem from?

Amandine Rouvroy: "Data is the source of knowledge - it sounds like an open door, but it really is why I enjoy immersing myself in it so much. It is very technical by nature, but it is also an essential building block of every successful business. A caveat to what I just said: if data is a fountain of knowledge, then I don't mean the data itself, but the knowledge we extract from it, the information that serves as fuel for the organization."

How does that translate to Federale Verzekering?

"For Federale Verzekering, data has a special meaning. We launched a new corporate strategy last year aimed at making data-driven decisions. To do this, you need top-quality data: available data (which the BICC team has been working on for five years) that we can easily share internally and - importantly! - interpret in the same way across different teams at Federale Verzekering. Which is already a big challenge. Add to that the ever-increasing deluge of data daily and you realize that data management is becoming increasingly complex."

And then there are also the strict regulations the insurance sector has to abide by.

"Quite so. The National Bank of Belgium imposes precise standards on the quality of data and demands a high level of data governance. If we decide to use the European Data Governance Act framework, it will be the occasion to draw an ethical framework around customer data usage. The creation of frameworks such as the European Data Governance Act shows the importance of drawing an ethical framework around customer data usage."

"Data privacy is a big challenge"

"As a result, our goal is twofold: to enable Federale Verzekering to become a data-driven enterprise and to outline the ethical framework in which we want - and must - handle our data plus the data of our partners and customers. Which brings us to data privacy, which is a big challenge in itself: the influx of data and the increasing ease of sharing that data makes it increasingly difficult for individuals to protect it. On that front, European regulation helps by setting a framework."

"What we also have to embed, are our ESG standards, the environmental, social, and governance criteria for our activities that can have consequences for society or the environment, which are also anchored in data. On the one hand, we will have to measure all ESG facets at Federale Verzekering. If we take 'social', the S in ESG, as an example, we are talking about the way we interact with customers and how we shape our employee policy. That data will on the other hand also help Federale Verzekering to identify and tackle the challenges around ESG."

Does your new position indicate that data governance, the development of agreements and rules regarding the collection, quality control, purpose, and security of data at Federale Verzekering, is uncharted territory?

"Although data governance may be relatively new at Federale Verzekering, it certainly does not mean that data was not managed or well-managed. However, this was mainly done in the same silos in which the insurer was organized. The executive committee wants to put an end to this way of working by making data interchangeable between silos and teams. Our role is therefore transversal, we must take the step from the idea that 'this is mydata' to 'this is ourdata'. A mindset that requires all teams within Federale Verzekering (DPO, compliance, legal, internal control...) to be aligned in their way of working."

"Data governance allows us to manage our risks even better"

"We also notice that we have momentum: many topics are emerging that allow us to develop a general framework within Federale Verzekering for data, as well as other areas such as asset management, risk management, enterprise architecture... It is important that we do not develop data governance as an isolated stand-alone but connect it to all other areas in which we work. The implementation of data governance at and by all levels of the insurer is also the ideal moment to review all our activities and manage our risks even better and build our data architecture even smarter."

You started with a blank sheet of paper. Where do you go from there?

"We have drawn up a roadmap for the next five years. Each year we put emphasis on a specific topic. The data landscape is so vast that you must choose. This year our focus is on developing services for our customers, which immediately aligns with one of Federale Verzekering's core values: customer orientation. The goal is to develop more digital channels, to complement our personal approach. Until recently, this was not a top priority, because Federale Verzekering is a direct insurer that works with its own sales network (advisors and offices). But the reality is that consumer behavior is fundamentally changing, and even a direct insurer needs a platform to interact with customers. And when you engage in digital dialogue with your customer, your data must be of high quality. The better you manage your data, the greater the sense the customer has that you are serving their interests."

If data is a new business within Federale Verzekering, does that mean Federale Verzekering can also attract new business with it?

"It certainly makes it easier to onboard partners. We are increasingly working in partnerships where the exchange of data is crucial. This is a big challenge because we are a medium-sized insurer and the partners we work with are also small or medium-sized - so data governance is also a big challenge for them. If you want the chain to work well, it must be well-managed from A to Z."

What is key to keep in mind when dealing with data governance?

"Two crucial aspects to achieve results are agility and non-invasive data governance. Agility because data governance is a particularly 'huge beast' to tame, so you need to take it step by step. If you try to tackle everything all at once, you risk coming back empty-handed. We intentionally keep the scope of each project small, but we attach all aspects of data governance to it: defining standards, procedures, training, communication plans, providing the right technology... We do it thoroughly and right from the start. Moreover, this way of working ensures that our approach is not directive or centralized, but supportive. With our Data Office, we implement a working method that helps everyone in the organization do their job well."

"We don't impose unnecessary innovations but use processes that our colleagues already know"

"Non-invasive data governance is a second key to success. When you mention 'governance', I can predict almost everybody's reaction: meh, boring.Or: more procedures, pfff. While we want to achieve the opposite. We provide the framework that helps our colleagues work better. I am convinced that everyone at Federale Verzekering does their best, but if you don't do it in the right context, if you don't have the right technology or if the process is flawed, the impact of 'doing your best' is limited. If you make simple agreements throughout the organization that everyone applies, the impact is much bigger. That's what we do: create more impact for each employee by providing them with all the support they need to handle data correctly. Non-invasive means that we don't impose unnecessary innovations, but use as many processes, procedures, and functions that already exist and that we define the roles, responsibilities, and usefulness of them more clearly. We don't position ourselves internally as all-knowing data gurus who dictate the law, but rather as coaches. The question we ask employees is: how can we help you?"

How supportive is the organization? Many aspects, rules and regulations of data governance are imposed from outside, while you promote them to the teams at Federale Verzekering as added value. Are the benefits for the employees worth the extra efforts?

"That is indeed a great challenge. In my opinion, you must look at it differently. Compare it to HR. When about 70 years ago someone said ' We need to manage our employees because they are an important asset', it would raise eyebrows. Now, no one can imagine an organization without HR: they provide training, establish agreements.... The same evolution is happening for data governance."

"Those who experience the added value of data firsthand are our biggest supporters."

"To be of the greatest relevance at all levels, we address both the strategic, tactical, and operational level within Federale Verzekering. Everyone has to be involved. What helps: we start every initiative with the employees who immediately benefit from it. For example, the sales and marketing team was (and still is) the most demanding party for data quality in order to develop their campaigns and to be in touch with the customers to offer them a better service. For them having our data neatly centralized is an added value by all means. That's why we started our project with them. Their project turned into a use case for other business teams within Federale Verzekering. Those who experience the added value of data firsthand are our biggest supporters. So we work bottom-up and aim for tangible positive results instead of pushing new systems from the top down."

Everybody happy?

"That's what we aim for, at least. We are pursuing two parallel paths simultaneously on our road map. For the executive committee, we focus on their main interest: risk management. From the teams' perspective, we have to realize practical benefits in their daily operations. This way, we want to convince everyone of the use of good data management. When Federale Verzekering did not yet invest in digital platforms, the quality of data - or, from time to time the lack of data - within the organization was not that visible. Data quality was manually boosted within the teams, which was expensive and never created the necessary sense of urgency. That is changing rapidly, thanks to the new applications we are developing, the tight deadlines of the new regulations, and our growing portfolio. It's important to achieve results because the ultimate goal is (financial) profit. So we must measure where we are now and measure what it yields. That is quite a challenge, I can assure you."

What are the biggest pitfalls for data migration?

"A lack of or non-existent documentation. In other words, a flawed description of the process, which means you have no idea who uses which data, which application data is linked to, where data is stored, what the purpose of the data is, etc. It is pointless to migrate that kind of data blindly. You must solve the problems before you migrate them, otherwise you will endlessly repeat the same mistakes. What also requires special attention is which data can and may be shared in the broker network, with the partners."

The other side of Amandine

  • Ethics

In a mere three words and a plant emoji, her LinkedIn profile proofs that Amandine is not a 'nerd', far from it: Data & Ethics. "Ethics because I care about people. At Federale Verzekering it shows in our choice for non-invasive data governance. We don't want to burden our employees with unnecessary stress. Ethics at Federale Verzekering also means that I take on a role in sustainability and collaborate with our ESG-manager. For me, it's important to work for a company that takes its social and ecological responsibility. I'm also actively involved in Journée agile, a knowledge platform that promotes agility in French-speaking Belgium."

  • Permaculture & horses

"In permaculture, we develop ecosystems based on observations of how nature works. We live on a planet that's billions of years old and where a system has emerged that is in equilibrium. By looking at the way Earth is organized, we can develop balanced and holistic models based on symbiosis, ethics, and ecology. Permaculture is often associated with agriculture, but I apply it to my horses. I also apply this holistic approach at home and even at Federale Verzekering."

  • Painter

From the hand of the master:

  • Japanese martial arts

"Iaido is about quickly and fluently drawing your sword to send your opponent to the afterlife in one smooth motion. ( At his point, the interviewer takes a step back.) There is no bloodshed involved in our training, but I'm determined to get a black belt."

Amandine's data

7/ There is more than one reason 7 is my number one.

  • I like this number, because it is a sure prime number (written in form 2p + 1), which makes it difficult to manipulate, but beautiful thanks to its symmetry.
  • It is the ideal number of people of an agile team (actually, of any team): big enough to bring new ideas, small enough to quickly take decisions and avoid endless discussions.
  • There are 7 music notes. And since I'm playing the piano since I was 5...
  • In Hinduism, 7 represents the number of sources of energies (7 chakras).

+/- 1,618...

... or the Golden Ratio

  • This Fibonacci sequence is used to estimate user stories. The division of two consecutive numbers of the Fibonacci sequence is an estimate of the golden ratio (the highest the numbers, the more precise the golden ratio).
  • This number is used a lot in painting as it is seen as the perfect proportion coefficient. It was especially used a lot by Leonard de Vinci.
  • The Golden Ratio is found a lot in nature when things are built in the form of logarithmic spirals (the stamens of a sunflower flower, nautilus shell, etc.). This number symbolizes the perfection of nature's organization.

About data

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