I work in insurance: Dr Keith O’Brien, behavioural insights lead, Simply Business

Dr Keith O’Brien, behavioural insights lead, Simply Business

As the behavioural insights lead at Simply Business, O’Brien uses behavioural science to improve customer experience and the work-life balance of employees

What is your role?

Behavioural insight’ has become a popular catch-all term for ‘understanding how people work based on evidence’. In essence, it is all about understanding how people actually think and behave.

As the behavioural insights lead, I apply these principles to gain a clearer understanding of the needs, desires and behaviours of both our customers and employees.

What drew you to the job?

I’ve always been fascinated by how people work. Before joining Simply Business, I researched and lectured in University College London on how people make decisions, and how to aid and improve the choices we make. I taught at London School of Economics and on the psychology of the workplace.

Simply Business set me a daring challenge. It said ‘here is our company, show us how to make it better with behavioural science’ – this is a dream come true for any behavioural scientist.

Do you have a background in the industry?

I don’t have any background in insurance. But insurance is about how people and underwriters perceive and understand the likelihood and severity of a risky outcome. This is bread and butter to a decision scientist.

If a person can’t perceive their own risks, they may take out incorrect cover or no insurance at all, leading to an inability to claim in the event of something happening.

What do the day-to-day duties involve?

My role covers everything from keeping up with the latest scientific evidence in customer psychology and behavioural economics to identifying opportunities within the business with thought leadership and experimental proposals. I’m also tasked with championing and increasing our use of behavioural science principles at all levels of Simply Business – from our consultants to our global C-suite team.

How is your job linked to insurance?

Insurance is rich with human psychology. From the psychology of risk, to how customers make choices at each step of the customer journey, or how we perceive and trust brands as entities. Fundamentally, my job is not to just passively understand our customers or employees, but to change things for the better.

What have some of the highlights of the role been?

Being stretched by learning a whole new industry, in a company gearing up for global growth. I’m extremely satisfied in seeing how behavioural insights are helping our customers, such as boosting timely policy renewals by 17% by redesigning our reminder messaging.

How do you think the role will change in the future?

The role will be more common, and will see dedicated teams of behavioural scientists underneath them, as the volume of work is large and the skills needed are fairly specific.

The role is starting to appear at the C-suite level, heading units that integrate current customer and data insight functions to uncover more powerful insights.

  • LinkedIn  
  • Save this article
  • Print this page  

You need to sign in to use this feature. If you don’t have an Insurance Post account, please register for a trial.

Sign in
You are currently on corporate access.

To use this feature you will need an individual account. If you have one already please sign in.

Sign in.

Alternatively you can request an indvidual account here: