Victor Magazine catches up with Tanja Magas, Chief Data and Analytics Officer at UAE-based Insurtech player Democrance. Tanja shares her insights on her current role and challenging the status quo of a male-dominated industry
Tell me a little about yourself and about your childhood
Sure thing. I am currently the Chief Data and Analytics Officer at Democrance in Dubai. Democrance is a UAE-born digitization and automation workflow for insurers, insurance brokers, and third-party distribution partners. Our primary mission is to digitize the sales and servicing of insurance offerings and thereby reach more customers and markets.
In terms of my background, I was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina. During the war in the 1990s, I grew up in Austria and Germany as part of a refugee program. Eventually, an ASSIST Foundation scholarship led me to high school in the United States. Then I also pursued a BA in Political Science and Philosophy from Columbia University, an MBA in Finance from the Wharton School, and an MA in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania. I now have 12+ years of experience in financial services and technology, previously having held various roles across New York, London, and Dubai.
I can see that you consistently excel academically which I believe, one way or another, helped you in conquering the Insurance industry which is normally dominated by men. Do you have any tips for women who are aiming to reach the top in their own field?
Align yourself with other superwomen. No one is going to be able to support you better than someone who walked a mile in your shoes.
In one of my previous corporate roles, I faced an incredibly challenging, male-dominated work environment. But organically, one of the company’s female executives took me under her wing (although largely left unsaid, probably because she empathized with my struggles based on her own prior experience). She carefully supported me from behind the scenes, and her small acts went a long way. When someone was needed to run a large, strategic project for the firm, she’d throw my name into the hat. When I shined in a meeting, she made sure to inform the CEO. And when the company was forming a new division and putting together its leadership team, she advocated for me to get the spot (and yes, I ended up being the only female in that entire team).
Based on that experience, now I am particularly indebted to and passionate about supporting, mentoring, and developing younger female talent. And the more women do so, the stronger the community and the higher the female corporate representation. Unfortunately, the proportion of women in senior management only increased from 31% to 32% over the last year so much more work still needs to be done.
What led to the transition from your political science degree to your current position as a data and analytics officer in the insurance and financial industries?
I’d say that I was one of those cases that stumbled into the financial services industry. As I graduated from college into the New York City market, the most sought-after career path naturally was the Wall Street route.
Eventually I did go back to school to get a degree in the field and completed my MBA in Finance. Well, the rest is history so here we are.
Just within 18 months of being with Democrance, what are your achievements in making the company known in Latin America, Middle East and Asia.
The pandemic has accelerated the need for companies to digitize. These pressures have made it to MENA as well.
According to a recent Capgemini survey, an estimated 67% of UAE-based insurers are keen to collaborate with insurtechs.
This in turn has helped Democrance grow significantly over the last 18 months. We now have 22 clients across 16 markets globally.
Within my role as the Chief Data & Analytics Officer at Democrance, I have been passionate about helping drive the transformation and innovation through data and analytics.
In particular, I have developed and am driving a data strategy with what I call 5 layers of capabilities: 1) a core data layer, 2) reporting capabilities, 3) advanced business intelligence, 4) 3rd party data integrations, and 5) data science and artificial intelligence.
I will give you an example of my favorite data product we recently launched. We developed a coverage or insurance recommendation engine for insurance prospects. Based on correlated and demographic attributes, we are able to tell individuals or businesses seeking insurance coverage what’s most suitable for them based on their direct peer group. And we are able to do so with 90% accuracy across covers. As a machine learning model, the algorithm dynamically retrains, so we are aiming to further improve on that stat over time.
With insurtechs rising to prominence all across the globe, how do you think insurtech can help the UAE industry in particular?
The UAE has all of the necessary ingredients to become the global hub for all things fintech and insurtech. This in turn, would draw in massive benefits to the country: from investment and top talent to market transformation and innovation.
The market opportunity is massive as the global insurtech market is estimated to reach USD10.14 billion by 2025 alone.
This sector also presents a critical opportunity to create a launching pad for more unicorns. According to CB Insights, there were 1,068 unicorn companies in the world as of March 30, 2022. But only 3 (Vista Global, Kitopi, Emerging Markets Property Group) are based in the UAE and none are insurtechs.
What’s one piece of career advice you’d offer to fellow readers?
Always be kind, considerate, and professional with all of your co-workers. With today’s non-linear career paths, you never know where someone will end up. Your direct report today might be the CEO you’re interviewing with tomorrow.
While Tanja is tackling the world of InsurTech, Tanja also shares why travel, music and reading are big parts of her life.
Short FUN Chat
FAVORITE “ME” TIME
Definitely travel! The ultimate goal is to cross all 195 countries during my lifetime. I have 127 more to go. Favorite travel experience this year? Feeding giraffes breakfast at 5am through my hotel room’s window at the Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, Kenya.
ALL-TIME FAVORITE OUTFIT
I’d have to go with the Versace green, leaf-print dress that Jennifer Lopez infamously wore to the Grammys in 2000. Also because that particular dress led to the creation of Google’s image search function. And it’s just super cool that a dress would incite the development of a powerhouse search engine.
ON YOUR PLAYLIST
Any beach deep house playlist on Spotify. ‘Tis the (summer) season after all.
THE BOOK ON YOUR BEDSIDE TABLE
“Give and Take” by Adam Grant – my favourite professor from my time at Wharton.
SOMETHING YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT
My Apple Air Pods – for all things work calls, podcasts, and, of course, that summer playlist.