At their core, insurance companies help their customers navigate risk decisions. At First American, we help consumers, lenders and other customers navigate the risk involved in real estate transactions. It is not an overstatement to say that First American makes major, multi-million-dollar decisions about risk every single day when issuing title insurance policies.
So, it makes sense that First American would want to apply science to these decisions. Decision science is the practice or use of data and evidence-based mathematical methods to measure and understand risk and improve productivity. To apply decision science, you need data, tools and talent.
“The Decision Sciences group is focused on helping augment First American’s talented team of underwriting decision makers with evidence-based decision-making support. Bringing these two concepts together enhances the company’s pursuit of operational excellence and the development of superior products and services for our customers.”
First American has lots of data. In fact, First American has the industry’s largest database of property and homeowner information and document images. First American is also committed to applying state-of-the-art technologies to improve the experience of buying and selling real estate. And broadly speaking, that was essentially the backdrop for the launch of a dedicated Decision Sciences group at First American back in late 2017.
The Decision Sciences group is focused on helping augment First American’s talented team of underwriting decision makers with evidence-based decision-making support. Blending decision science together with the experienced judgement of highly trained underwriting professionals enhances the company’s pursuit of operational excellence and the development of superior products and services for our customers.
By using innovative tools, like artificial intelligence and machine learning, to mine our rich data, we can streamline processes and free our people to focus on more difficult tasks that a computer cannot do. Ultimately, these efforts will help move First American toward a better, more convenient real estate transaction experience for consumers.
In today’s era of big data, First American is not the only company assembling teams to harness the benefits of decision science, artificial intelligence and machine learning. While First American may not be building a team the size of Amazon’s, the company has brought together an impressive group of critical thinkers with a variety of educational and professional backgrounds.
Our Decision Sciences team includes the type of professionals you might expect: economists like myself, statisticians and other mathematical professionals. But, the team also includes industrial and aeronautical engineers and even an astrophysicist. I firmly believe the diversity of backgrounds allows us to identify better solutions as we look to find innovative ways to deliver increased efficiency, stronger security and reduced risk to our customers.
And we’re busy building a following internally as well. Earlier this year, we launched a weekly Data Science 101 lunch and learn series, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. First American employees from across the company participated and many did not have a computer science or mathematical background, but they were curious and passionate about learning.
So, First American has the data, tools and talent to leverage decision science and we’re pursuing some exciting opportunities. We’ll share more in the future, so stay tuned for updates as we continue this innovation journey.
Mark Fleming is the chief economist for First American Financial Corporation and leads First American’s Decision Sciences team.