Article provided by Wes McCranor, Co-Founder and Director of Cipher Risk, for Beacon Gainer private wealth advisory services group.

At my High School, Heart of Darkness was required reading; not only for those studying English lit, and occasionally regretting the decision, but also for those wanting to tap into the “sub-culture cool” association with “must see” movie Apocalypse Now, the viewing of which was essential to the gaining of any street-cred in my early teenage years.

I found it a tough read. Joseph Conrad isn’t for everyone and the delights of the plot, the prose and its heavy metaphor left me almost as quickly as I found them. However, one thing did stick with me. One short line, that, to this day, remains as important to me as anything I’ve ever read.

It isn’t even Conrad. It isn’t in the book, it’s the epigraph and many will have just turned the page without even seeing it; but to me it spoke volumes. A single line from the Brothers Grimm. Rumpelstiltskin to be exact.

“No; something human is dearer to me than the wealth of all the world.”

I liked the “No”. It was strong and definite; it seemed to be underlined; resolute; a point from which there was no turning back. I liked that. It had integrity and, after all, you’ve got to stand for something. More importantly, it’s message seemed to be central to everything that was going on around me: in politics, entertainment, in the media and in the decisions I was having to make as I grew towards adulthood. It was something to hold close, and to never forget. A compass to always help me remember what was truly important.

We live in an age where Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, algorithms and machine learning are now shaping, designing and dictating our everyday experience and our outcomes. Four Horsemen that, as little as ten years ago, only existed in movies and dystopian fiction. Quietly, unwittingly, and unconsciously, we have given our world to the machines…

There’s degree of hyperbole here and I may be “over egging the pudding” somewhat; but reality also looms large and we see it in the media everyday.

In the financial services sector, the influence of Big Data, AI et al is now all pervading, its key driver being an absolute desire for efficiency, for reducing costs, increasing speed and delivering profits. You can understand it and it has its place: but it mustn’t be at the expense of value to the customer.

When it comes to life assurance and medical underwriting, where decisions made are based on such things as age, height, weight and current, past and familial health experience, you can see why the use of Big Data and its friends can do wonders in serving the interests of the insurance companies. The ability to identify bulk trends, create avatars, deliver quick decisions, and build broad-brush, blanket philosophies that deliver human-lite profitability present a compelling case for their use to any board of directors. For the mass market, It works. I get it. It facilitates quick decisions. And that’s why it’s here to stay.

However, quick decisions aren’t necessarily fair, right or good decisions. The increasing reliance on our Four Horsemen may deliver to the needs of the insurance companies and to the masses but, at the high value and complex end of the market where customers are seeking high sums assured, and where people and numbers rarely sit squarely within the standard underwriting framework, it just doesn’t work. It pushes everyone toward the lowest common denominator. And the outcome? Cover that rarely reflects the true needs or position of the client, and premiums that are just too high.

Cipher was built to address this problem, seeking to help insurance companies make good, accurate and fair underwriting decisions for our high value clients, using singular and highly focused medical profiling to deliver positive, desired outcomes bespoke to their needs.

We collect our clients personal data and, using our unique OneLife process, create an in-depth, highly personalised but absolutely anonymous profile which we then take to key decision makers across the industry, negotiating Best Terms for our clients before any applications are even made. We only talk to people about people. We don’t deal in Big Data. We don’t deal with small data. We only deal with our client’s data. We think that’s the way it should be and we know that it’s the human approach that gets results.

We want to change the way the UK underwriting sector evaluates risk. We want to drive better and fairer outcomes, ensuring that value sits with our clients, and that they pay the right price for the right cover. We don’t work to make insurance companies and their shareholders richer. We work to secure the lives and wellbeing of our clients.

Protection has, and will always be, the cornerstone of sensible, strategic financial planning. Why? Because, ultimately, it starts and stops with people. That’s what’s really important. And that’s something I’ll always remember.

Thanks to Rumplestiltskin.