Property/casualty insurance companies are on the hunt for data scientists who can help them use big data to attract more customers, improve service and help with risk planning, according to a new study by advisory firm Strategy Meets Action (SMA).

According to the report “Big Data in Insurance,” available at this link, property/casualty insurers said they plan to increase, on average, their percentage of big data staff with advanced degrees from 21 percent to 51 percent by 2016.

Big companies–with over $1 billion in premiums–are leading the way with big data initiatives. Thirty-nine percent of $1B-plus insurers said they are investing in big data projects, compared to 14 percent of insurers with under $1 billion in premiums.

Property/casualty survey respondents said big data projects involving customer acquisition would focus primarily on renewal and retention, new business analysis and customer relationship management.

Top big data projects planned for risk planning and evaluation include developing improved pricing models, and improving profitability for both products and underwriting activities.

As data scientists tackle the conundrum of big data, the study authors say two key challenges are emerging in the field: variety and veracity of data.

“The challenge of variety lies in managing and making sense of the many types of data that matter to insurers, while veracity refers to developing a system to ensure that data is verified and accurate,” the study authors wrote.