- Pivot Tables and Conditional Formatting are okay for reviewing data, but you can't compare multiple dimensions at once.
- Filtering and flagging data only goes so far - in many cases you are still scrolling through data reviewing other attributes.
- You don't get a good overview of your data in excel - it's important to know your population and it's not easy to get an all encompassing overview.
1. Quickly Draw Insights Through Visualizations
Example: Suppose you need to review claim amounts and premium amounts for a specific period for personal auto policies. Maybe you also care about the deductible amount and age of the policyholders. You'd most likely use a pivot table to review this information, but you could miss the big picture. If you use a visualization tool, you'd be able to plot a scatterplot with claim amount and premium amount on the axis, with each point's size based on the deductible amount and color based on age or an age bucket.
One of the main reasons I love visualizing data is because of the versatility of reviewing multiple dimensions of data at once. It can save a lot of time and help you focus on the most important information!
2. Explore Characteristics of Attributes More Efficiently
Example: You may be in a situation where you need to analyze claims for a specific line of business and find patterns for specific attributes of data. Are there specific zip codes that are typically reporting more damage on vehicles? Could the age or number of drivers on a policy be impacting this uptick? A visualization tool can help you explore multiple characteristics on one dashboard so you can see how they interact with one another. Once you know which characteristics you want to focus on, you can finalize your dashboard and any time you have new data you want to review, it's just a quick upload with minimal set-up.
3. Visualizations Provide Better Ways to Filter and Compare Data
It's also really easy to add in new calculations in Tableau or Power BI once the source data has been added - so if you're in the middle of creating a dashboard and want to see a new combination of data or bucket the data, you can easily do so in the visualization software.
Example: There may be a time where you need to compare data year over year to make sure different groupings of data remain consistent. Maybe you are looking at the loss ratio or a variety of other ratios. Depending on your dataset, there are a variety of ways you could visualize year over year data to compare, from bar charts to scatterplots to heatmaps. You could even use side by side box and whisker plots to see how the population of data has changed year over year.
When using data visualizations to filter and compare data, the possibilities are endless, as well as the insights that can be drawn from the data. Data visualizations can also make your comparisons and data checks more effective! Just another reason I think data visualization is a great alternative!
4. Identify How Subsets of Data Affect Overall Population
Example: If you are interested in how specific lines of business are trending over time and you want to identify and exclude outliers causing large shifts, you could easily do this using visualization tools. With all of the additional features in tableau, you can also have visuals interact where you'd be able to hover over a bar in one chart which could highlight all of the data making up that specific bar in a different chart.
5. Use Interactive Dashboards to Drill-Down to Reduce Noise
Example: When reviewing certain relationships, such as a loss ratio, you may see that a specific state stands out and you want to drill down to find the line of business causing the high loss ratio. You also want to see if it is one policy driving the loss ratio or many and if they have any other similar characteristics. In excel, you might be able to set specific thresholds and filter on these thresholds to find that data, but you could be missing some other important information. Maybe there is an issue with a specific product across the board, but you only found one point of data above the set threshold, so you let it go. Using a dashboard with multiple visualizations, allowing you to drill-down to the data could quickly alert you to these patterns without missing any specifics due to set thresholds.
I've found the drill-down capabilities of Tableau and Power BI to be very useful in identifying specific areas of data to focus on. It is a lot quicker to find these data points using a variety of visuals than it is to find these relationships in excel.
If you are interested in applying data visualizations to your actuarial work, I'd be happy to speak more - just send me a message on LinkedIn use the contact form on this site!