APR and hx – the collaboration
If you’re the type of person who reads GI-themed APR articles, you’ve clearly got your finger firmly on the pulse. You know where to find all the best content, and there’s no need for me to tell you about Renew – a pricing platform with a growing GI client base – and hx – the developers behind Renew.
However, wishing to steer clear of dangerous assumptions regarding how in-the-know our readership is, I will first introduce you to Renew. I’ll then tell you a bit about how APR and hx work together, and I will end by recounting my own experience working on a client’s Renew implementation.
If you have stumbled upon this article via our News & Views page, it’s worth me saying that parts of this piece are very much Views rather than News. If you have come via some other source, why not check out our News & Views page?
What is Renew?
Renew is a pricing platform. It’s simply an alternative to whatever software has been used to build your existing models – assuming you aren’t already using Renew (nearly my second dangerous assumption in four paragraphs, don’t let him near the technical rates!). This isn’t a Renew marketing article so I won’t dwell too much here on all the specific things Renew has to offer – that’s all on the hx website – but the basic premise is it is a cloud-based tool allowing very quick development of pricing models and is especially good at incorporating sparse or unstructured datasets that are typically found in specialty insurance.
It’s worth clarifying at this stage our relationship with hx. We have worked together for over three years, and see ourselves as strategic partners, driven entirely by both parties having seen the benefits of the partner’s proposition. However there is no joint ownership or other financial interest, and of course we are not recommending the use of Renew for any party without a full review of the environment and competing software.
Why are APR writing about Renew?
Regular readers of this mailer will know that we love writing about the various bits of technology actuaries use – what it is, how it’s changing, the exact moment we fell in love with Excel’s lambda function – that sort of thing. In that sense, this article is more of the same, just with a GI twist.
Over the last couple of years, APR have worked on various Renew projects as part of our expansion into General Insurance. The idea is that while hx focus their considerable expertise on making Renew the best pricing tool it can possibly be, APR help our clients implement the system, often by simply providing resource to slot into a client’s actuarial team. This is very similar to how APR works with lots of our clients, but the benefit of the strong relationship with hx is that we’re able to access support from the developers of the tool – to consider an appropriate parallel, Bill Gates never gets back to me when I question him on the new Microsoft suite.
We think this hx-APR-client arrangement works well. At APR, we’ve always been proud of the technological capability of our staff – they are perfect for model implementation projects such as this – and importantly, it’s the kind of work a lot of our staff really enjoy.
In Feb 2020, I started my first project in GI – a big occasion in an otherwise quiet year, globally speaking.
The project saw me work 3 days a week, helping to implement a set of Renew pricing models for a London market client. As mentioned, I had no GI experience, but had worked on a few model development projects before, so was comfortable with that side of things.
Aside from Renew, my model development experience has primarily been with R and Excel/VBA and so, to close off, I thought I’d quickly jot down some of my thoughts on Renew in relation to the other two, as well as some more general thoughts that may be of interest depending on your role:
- Most importantly from my point of view, I really valued the transferable technical skills I took from using Renew – in particular, the daily practice with Python. It was fantastic to be able to deliver high-quality work, while constantly learning. Python is famously easy to pick up relative to some other languages, but I think that having had previous exposure to other languages – and more importantly, good coding practices – helped no end. Personally, I much preferred this to working with proprietary software, which often feels difficult to get to grips with, and a far less transferrable skill.
- Looking back, I was quite fortunate that as soon as lockdown hit, I was working with a tool ideally suited to lockdown. Renew is cloud-based – so to start work, you just head to a company-specific internet location and get cracking. It’s a refreshing break from clunky VDIs and unstable VPNs, and I didn’t realise how much I’d appreciate that particular aspect.
- Quite a lot of things that are a bit of a pain to do using other tools were refreshingly simple in Renew. For example, it’s straightforward enough to put together a calculation model in R, but putting in (and debugging) a front-end can be tricky and time-consuming. In Excel, it’s super-quick to develop a model, but the ceiling of complexity in that model can be quite low. In Renew, implementing calculations was easy, making changes to the UI was fast, and organising model releases was painless.
- For me, it was a great way to get some experience in GI and pricing techniques. Because models can be put together so quickly using Renew, you don’t lose sight of the key actuarial concepts behind the models – an aspect which is, of course, invaluable both in model sign-off and made things more efficient when I came to design my next model for a different business line.
- Chief Actuaries and purse string-holders may be pleased to learn of the speed at which pricing models can be developed and deployed, and the ownership the actuarial teams (rather than IT admin teams) have over the release cycle.
- Underwriters will no doubt appreciate the ability to price a risk from anywhere with internet access – be that at your office, during your commute, or at the 19th hole (not to typecast underwriters of course).
Want to find out more?
I hope this article has been informative – I’ve tried not to get bogged down in too many specifics, but if you did want to find out more about anything in this article, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, more information on hx & Renew can be found on their website, or on their blog. We and hx are keen to develop our relationship further including using APR’s knowledge of the life insurance market to explore how Renew may deliver value to life insurers.
Finally, APR are always keen to form partnerships with other providers delivering valuable products to our core insurance market, especially those with a tech or software focus, as these align well with the skills of our staff. If any readers are interested in exploring this further, please drop a line with a brief overview of your product to email@example.com.