Admiral is looking to recruit a data ethics analyst. It’s a new role, located within their ‘Group Data Protection and Privacy’ function. It’s an opportune moment to create such a role, given the ethical risks that insurers are facing from data and analytics. So what does it involve?

It’s the first such role I’ve seen advertised within the UK insurance sector, although I should add that I haven’t been monitoring this closely. It also looks to be a new role within Admiral. And across UK insurance, there aren’t many other people with that job title and talking about it. Admiral are right then to refer to it as a “…unique opportunity in a fascinating and fast developing field..”

I like how the role is described, for example:

It involves thinking about the potential biases in predictive models and guiding the business to better solutions. The role will involve thinking about the potential biases and noise that may impact predictive models and helping advise Data Scientists on how to achieve fairer outcomes. These considerations will rarely be simple and will involve careful thought and balance.

What Admiral is Looking For

Four responsibilities are given:

  • reviewing data science models to detect potential bias;
  • providing practical advice on how to improve predictive models;
  • writing practical and realistic guidance papers on the ethical use of Artificial Intelligence;
  • working with data governance colleagues across the business to provide support and guidance.

These are the essential skills, qualifications and experience being sought:

  • experience with data science and artificial intelligence;
  • understanding of best practices when building predictive models and segmentations;
  • passionate about data ethics;
  • ability to think through the factors that may bias a predictive model;
  • comfortable communicating with Data Scientists, stakeholders, and data protection professionals;
  • confident in acting as a subject matter expert;
  • strong presentation skill with ability to champion data ethics;
  • possession of strong team working and leadership skills;

And Admiral balance this with the following note:

We recognise that this is a broad list of requirements and not everybody will have all of these. Therefore, we welcome you to tell us what other skills and experience you will bring to the role.

This recruitment is a good move by Admiral and could allow them to secure the best person before other insurers do. The way in which they present the role is engaging, with a sense of realism designed to not put off cautious candidates.

Some Questions

That said, the mix of what they set as responsibilities and ask as skills raises a few questions. The most obvious one relates to the emphasis on analytics. Does the role include considerations of how data is being sourced and prepared? A good data ethics framework has three core elements: data, analytics and practices. One without the other two will not achieve much.

Another question is the absence of any reference to the person having experience or even knowledge of insurance. Someone completely new to insurance could face such a learning curve for this role that their effectiveness could be seriously undermined.

It feels like the person is being given an almost blank piece of paper. Does Admiral have a data ethics framework for them to work within? If they don't, it would take an exceptionally confident person to succeed at this role.

And this made me wonder what Admiral has for this role as indicators of success. The role is presented in a way that does not signal strong expectations of how much change they're expected to deliver.

And finally, what will make or break this role will be the data ethics related responsibilities and performance targets of the manager this person will be reporting to. I recognise that these are not going to be included in the recruitment material, but at the same time, they will be absolutely vital for this role to work.  

Asking the Right Questions and Understanding the Answers

Recruiting an analyst for a new role in an emerging field gives the interviewers the challenge of asking the right questions and judging their responses correctly. I know, from having been on the receiving end as an analyst candidate before (and then as a senior manager as well). You're actually recruiting someone who knows more about the subject than you do. The risk of course is of candidates being asked, let's just say, odd questions. At which point, they're already wondering if this role is a good one or not.    

Here's a couple of things that might help. Firstly, this toolkit is designed to help firms ask decent questions relating to the ethical knowledge and skills of candidates. And secondly, I'd be happy to help with shaping the role and/or recruiting for it.

Good luck, Admiral !  

Duncan Minty
Duncan Minty
Duncan has been researching and writing about ethics in insurance for over 20 years. As a Chartered Insurance Practitioner, he combines market knowledge with a strong and independent radar on ethics.
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