Strategy Note /
China

A glance at Ant Group and Tencent's insurance technology ventures

  • In China, the insurance penetration rate-2.7%, & premium per capita-USD 47, are both lagging, leaving room for potential

  • Chinese Big Tech is seizing this opportunity and the competition is just getting started

  • The development of Insurtech was driven by changes in customer behavior, technology advancements & supportive policies

EqualOcean
16 August 2021
Published byEqualOcean

The wave of fintech has spread to the insurance industry, giving rise to the 'Insurtech' and the related niche markets. However, in China, the insurance penetration rate (2.7%) and premium per capita (USD 47) are both lagging, leaving much room for potential. Chinese Big Tech is seizing this opportunity and the competition is just getting started.

insurance

The term 'Insurtech' is self-explanatory, expressing the blending of technological solutions with insurance. By applying such technologies to various scenarios, insurance companies boost service quality and expand their product portfolios. In a broader sense, Insurtech is an innovative technology cluster consisting of new digital tools developed to optimize the performance of insurance companies and to deliver a better customer experience. A strong point of Insurtech to date has been strengthening companies' underwriting abilities by incorporating artificial intelligence-based risk assessment. This boosts revenue by allowing them to move into adjacent niche markets. 

The emergence of new technologies has installed new dynamics in insurance products while also adding more complexities. When traditional insurance companies and Internet giants are drawn to share a piece of the market, the competition is likely to intensify in the short term.

The Chinese insurance market has grown rapidly over the past decade, and so has the Insurtech segment. The tremendous development that Insurtech has experienced was mainly driven by changes in customers' behaviors (according to EY, 59% of mainland China's life insurance consumers' preference for interactions and relationships with insurers skews strongly toward digital), technology advancements (big data, IoT, block chain, Cloud computing, etc.) and more supportive policies. Several internet giants in China have entered the market as distributors by utilizing their large volumes of traffic, while the traditional risk carriers – or to say, insurance incumbents, have also made scaled investments in technology solutions. Other technology enablers, such as start-ups focused on specific pain points in insurance operations, have accounted for a part of the whole market as well.

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Ant Group's insurance play

In July 2017, China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) announced the approval of the establishment of Hangzhou Baojin Insurance Agency Co., Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ant Financial. After six months, the company officially changed its name to Ant Insurance Agency Co., Ltd — the same old trick other big names always play — which hinted at the company's ambition to fully enter the insurance industry.

AntSure (as it is named in the English version of Alipay), a one-stop platform for servicing insurance needs, is designed to assist insurance company partners to provide a wide range of innovative, customized and easy-to-obtain products. Up to H1 2020, the Alipay-owned insurance platform had closely cooperated with over 90 Chinese partner insurance institutions, offering over 2,000 products, covering areas from life insurance, health insurance to property insurance and other customized products.

The company's revenue mainly comes from the technical service fees paid by the partners based on the premiums and apportioned amounts promoted by Ant Insurance Agency. According to the prospectus for the Hong Kong IPO, the insurance premiums enabled through Ant Group's platform – as well as contributions by Xianghubao (i.e. an online healthcare mutual aid programme launched in October 2018, which aims to provide mutual protection with no upfront...

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