Published: 27 March 2018

Surrey wins first prize in Hiscox competition

Four students from Surrey’s Maths Society have been named as the winners of the Hiscox University Data Challenge. 

The Mathematics, Computer Science and Physics students fought off competition from the Universities of Cambridge and Leeds at the competition final, which was held at Hiscox’s London headquarters on 14 March. As well as claiming the winners’ trophy and a prize of £1,000 for the Maths Society, the Surrey students will now be fast-tracked to Hiscox’s highly selective graduate assessment programme.

Stewart Hutchins and Kevin Li (studying in the Department of Mathematics), Will Bennett (Department of Computer Science), and Courtney Elmy (Department of Physics) were challenged to develop a comprehensive insurance strategy which could analyse and address the potentially catastrophic effects a product recall can have on businesses. This can include loss of business, a ruined reputation and even a prison sentence.

In the two-part challenge, the students created a risk management strategy based on their analysis of industry data about the triggers that cause product recalls for meat items, and then designed an insurance product for product recalls. For the first time in this year’s Challenge, the entries will be considered for use as real business solutions by Hiscox.

Team leader Stewart said: “We entered the Challenge because we wanted to apply what we’d learned at University in a business scenario and gain some experience. It was certainly challenging, but rewarding, and we were delighted to get down to the final three teams – we never expected to win!”

Kevin added: “I want to pursue data science as my career, and this Challenge gave me the chance to see what skillsets I need to acquire in the future. The best part of the Challenge was regular brainstorming with teammates, which is where most of the best ideas came from.”

Dr Jonathan Bevan, Director of Learning and Teaching in the Department of Mathematics, said: “The Maths department is delighted to hear of this achievement and congratulates all four team members.  Among other things, their prize-winning submission shows how the analytical skills developed in their degree programmes can be brought to bear on real-world problems.”

Saniya Khayrova, Group Financial analyst at Hiscox UK commented: “Surrey impressed us with their insights into future trends, their narrowing of the dataset to focus on recalls of different types of meat and their very clear business case. What really impressed us was their understanding of the insurance context and their global viewpoint. They provided some free text analysis and grouping to establish quantities and classified the data. They were the only team to create a Tableau dashboard which is a good way to visually convey the message.”

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